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April 14, 1998


HC puts check on MTNL's cellular plans

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The Delhi high court today restrained the department of telecommunication from giving the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd a licence for operation of cellular services in Delhi and Bombay.

Justice Usha Mehra stated that the stay on all proceedings before the Telecom Regulatory Association of India regarding the matter would remain until further orders were issued.
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Hearing the appeal of DoT against the TRAI order restraining MTNL from providing cellular services, the high court had, on March 3, allowed MTNL from carrying out preliminary work at its own risk. But the operation of services was made subject to the final order.

Clarification came when counsel for Cellular Operators Association of India K K Venugopal sought modification of the March 3 order.

Venugopal feared that using the leverage provided by the court order, the DoT might actually give licences to MTNL for cellular services and other private Internet service providers. In response, the judge asked the DoT not to issue licences to ISPs till the formal disposal of the appeal. The court also directed the parties to file their replies within one week and adjourned the matter to May 6.

The judge had on March 12 issued show cause notice to the DoT on an intervention application filed by the COAI for impleading as a party in petitions challenging the TRAI orders and had fixed for hearing today various appeals filed by the DoT challenging the TRAI's jurisdiction in restraining the DoT from selling and processing forms to private parties for providing internet service.

The COAI filed the intervention application saying that the court should keep in mind their interest as well since any order would directly affect their members. It said that it should be given a chance to represent its case in the matter.

The high court had in the first week of March given the DoT the go-ahead to process and sell application forms to private parties to provide Internet services.

In her interim order, Justice Mehra overruled the TRAI's ruling restraining the DoT from processing the licences of private parties. However, she ruled that the present order would be subject to the final judgement of the court.

DoT counsel Rakesh Tikku submitted that the TRAI had no jurisdiction to entertain such a matter.

The judge ruled that the licences could be granted only after it finally disposed off the DoT's appeal against TRAI's stay on the implementation of the Internet policy. As a consequence, the sale of application forms would begin with immediate effect.

The DoT had issued detailed terms and conditions of licence agreement for Internet service providers on January 15 as a follow-up of the new Internet policy guidelines announced by the government last November.

The sale of application forms from February 18 was, however, held in abeyance after the TRAI judgement in February.


DoT can now process ISP applications

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