SC admits cell operators' pleas against Tribunal order

New Delhi Nov. 10. The Supreme Court today admitted the appeals filed by cellular operators against an order of the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) upholding the Government's decision to permit basic operators to offer WLL mobile services.

A three Judge Bench comprising Justice S. Rajendra Babu, Justice A.R. Lakshmanan and Justice G.P. Mathur issued notice on the interim prayer of the petitioners seeking a stay of the WLL services on the ground that it infringed upon the National Telecom Policy-99 and their service agreement. The cellular operators, in their interim prayer, sought a direction to the Centre not to give effect to the permission for limited mobility; to direct the WLL operators not to make functional the handsets outside the SDCA; and not to allow creation of third party rights. .

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) challenged the August 8 decision of TDSAT given by its "two non-judicial members", saying that the minority verdict of tribunal's Chairman, Justice D.P. Wadhwa terming WLL services illegal should be upheld, as it was the correct interpretation of the National Telecom Policy-99.

The COAI said Justice Wadhwa's view was "the first definitive pronouncement in relation to the rights of licencee and the obligation of a licensor and as to whether the Government as a licensor can unilaterally and arbitrarily alter the basic and fundamental terms of the licence agreement".

The COAI, in its appeal, has raised questions of law relating to "whether WLL now found permissible by the majority judgment is in effect a permission to provide cellular mobile service and, therefore, contrary to New Telecom Policy of 1999".

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