Madras High Court gives release to Vodafone in TRAI Tariff case


The Madras High Court has ordered the telecom regulator not to take any correctional move against Vodafone India, while remaining the regulator’s demand that the carrier put all its tariff plans on the website, including those offered to retain individual clients.

“All questions, including the question of territorial jurisdiction of this Court to engage the writ petition, are kept open,” the bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose stated. The court will now hear the issue on April 13. It gave Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) time till March 28 to document counter-affidavits, and till April 6 to record replies.

There will be an order of injunction controlling the respondent authorities (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) from taking any corrective measures against the petitioner (Vodafone India) for non-compliance of paragraph 4(d) of the criticized communication being F.No.301-7(27)/2017- F&EA, dated March 7, 2018,” the order of the Court said.

The provisional order efficiently permits India’s No 2 telco – and perhaps other carriers Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular – to give segmented offers to particular subscribers who it needs to hold, without offering that plan to different clients, till the case is settled. “A High Court order is higher than a tribunal. The telcos need to convey the order to the tribunal’s notice,” a senior legal counselor stated, requesting that not be named.


The Individuals familiar with issue added that Vodafone India has also filed a caveat in the Supreme Court on Saturday, asking that the carrier is heard before any interim order is passed, in case TRAI appealed the Madras High Court order in the apex court.

The Vodafone India had tested the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) latest tariff order – informed on February 16 – which changed the technique for recognizing what was a predatory offer and modified the meaning of critical market power (SMP), giving pricing flexibility only to operators with less than 30% of the market’s subscribers or income, while rejecting volume of traffic and network limit as measure.

Vodafone India, in its appeal, named the order unlawful, illicit, and invalid and void, arguing it violated provisions of the TRAI Act, 1997. The most recent standards, Vodafone India, Bharti Airtel, and Idea Cellular say, restrict their capacity to compete with Jio, claims that both the regulator and the new entrant have rejected. India’s other older telcos Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular have also separately challenged the tariff order in the telecom tribunal, saying it curtailed their rights to fight for clients, and consequently violated their right to conduct business.

The Vodafone India, indeed, additionally looked for an order on the direction given by Trai in a March 7 letter, asking the carrier to show all the tariff plans it offers to customers on its site, including those offered to people. This part has been stayed by the Madras High Court. While the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), in its hearing on March 5, did not permit them any immediate interim relief to Airtel and Idea, legitimate specialists say that the most recent order of the Madras High Court could help the two carriers in their fight in this particular issue. TDSAT will next hear the issue on April 17.


The Specialists add that the order could particularly profit Bharti Airtel, which has been issued a separate show cause notice by TRAI on March 16, requesting that it share subtle elements by March 25 on non-straightforward and discriminatory tariffs that it has offered to buyers. Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular did not express any response to queries as of press time.

According to the latest tariff, telcos need to report any tariff to the regulator within seven working days of offering it to customers, failing which they could be fined Rs 5,000 for every day of delay subject to a maximum of Rs 2 lakh.


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