Petition No. 24 of 2013. Case: Reliance Telecom Limited Vs Union of India. TDSAT (Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal)

Case NumberPetition No. 24 of 2013
CounselFor Appellant: Navin Chawla and Anurup Narula, Advocates and For Respondents: S.S. Shamshery and Aparajita Sharma, Advocates
JudgesAftabalam, J. (Chairperson), Kuldip Singh and Bipin Bihari Srivastava, Members
IssueCommercial Law
Judgement DateOctober 28, 2015
CourtTDSAT (Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal)


Aftabalam, J. (Chairperson)

  1. Reliance Telecom Ltd. is a telecom service provider. It has filed this petition seeking to challenge the imposition of penalty of Rs. 1,09,20,000/- by the TERM Cell, Madhya Pradesh for breach of the norms for verification of the Customer Application Forms (CAFs). The penalties pertain to the audit for the months of July, August, September and October, 2012. The TERM Cell asked the petitioner to submit certain number of CAFs as samples for audit for those months. The petitioner was unable to submit a large number of CAFs from among the samples asked for from it. Resultantly, the TERM Cell imposed penalties, presuming all the CAFs that were not submitted before it as non-compliant with the prescribed guidelines and hence, liable to attract penalty. Given below is a table showing the number of CAFs demanded by the TERM Cell in each of the months in question, the number of CAFs which the petitioner was unable to submit and the amounts of penalty imposed, holding those CAFs to be non-compliant with the guidelines.

  2. It needs to be clarified here that even among the CAFs that the petitioner submitted before the authorities, a few were found non-compliant with the verification guidelines and penalties were imposed in respect of those CAFs as well. The number of such CAFs, however, is quite small and those CAFs are not the subject matter of the present petition which is confined only in respect of CAFs that the petitioner was unable to produce before the TERM Cell as shown in the above table.

  3. From the materials on record, it is not clear whether or not the petitioner intimated the TERM Cell the reason for its inability to submit the CAFs within time. However, after the issuance of demand notices by the TERM Cell (vide letters dated 26.12.2012), the petitioner made representations before the DDG(TERM), Bhopal on 28 December 2012. In its representations it explained that all the (mobile phone) numbers (relating to the CAFs not submitted before the TERM Cell) were activated only after procuring all necessary documents as per the guidelines issued by the DoT from time to time. It was further stated in the representation that "due to shifting and consolidation of Warehouse from Chhattisgarh to Bhopal, we could not retrieve the CAFs within timelines set by your good office. These CAFs were always with us and now ready to be submitted to your office". It was further stated in the representation that the transfer of CAFs to the new warehouse was completed successfully and from November 2012 the petitioner was able to submit all the CAFs asked for by the TERM Cell.

  4. The representations were rejected by the DDG(TERM Cell) by four separate, though identical orders, passed on 16 January 2013. The gist of the orders in regard to the non-submitted CAFs is that the CAF audit is a time bound exercise and the CAFs in question could no longer be taken into consideration as the petitioner failed to submit them in time.

  5. The petitioner then came to the Tribunal in this petition which was filed on 22 January 2013. In this petition the reason for its inability to submit the CAFs in question in time is stated in greater detail. In paragraph 3 of the petition, it is stated as under:

    "3. It is pertinent to mention that during May 2012, Petitioner initiated consolidation of CAF vendors and warehouse from Chhattisgarh to Bhopal. This involved transportation of approximately 25 Lacs CAFs. In the course of transportation, the boxes carrying CAFs got damaged resulting thereby in severe disturbance in indexation of those CAFs. Due to aforesaid disturbed indexation, the Petitioner was unable to locate the CAFs for the relevant period as sought by Respondent DOT and as such Petitioner due to such unforeseen circumstance was constrained to deposit the CAFs in time. In fact, the Petitioner immediately initiated re-indexing of CAFs to the new warehouse at Bhopal. The said re-indexing exercise is still going on and Petitioner till date has completed the re-indexing of 7 to 8 Lacs CAFs out of 25 Lacs CAFs. Petitioner would be able to complete the re-indexing exercise and submit the non-submitted CAFs within reasonable time. Further, it is relevant to note that even in prior months case, Petitioner was securing higher compliance scores in submissions of relevant CAFs in time. It is only due to unforeseen circumstances the...

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