BHARAT SANCHAR NIGAM LTD. AND OTHERS ETC. VERSUS M/S TATA COMMUNICATIONS LTD. ETC.

BHARAT SANCHAR NIGAM  LTD. AND OTHERS ETC. VERSUS M/S TATA COMMUNICATIONS  LTD. ETC.

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले


REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
 CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
    CIVIL APPEAL NO(S).1699­1723 OF 2015
BHARAT SANCHAR NIGAM 
LTD. AND OTHERS ETC.        ….APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
M/S TATA COMMUNICATIONS 
LTD. ETC.            ….RESPONDENT(S)
J U D G M E N T
Ajay Rastogi, J.
1. The   instant   batch   of   appeals   has   been   preferred   by   the
appellant, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. assailing the judgment dated
20th August, 2014 passed by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and
Appellate Tribunal, New Delhi, followed with the order dated 14th
October,   2014   rejecting   the   application   filed   by   the   appellant
seeking clarification of judgment dated 20th  August, 2014 to the
extent that the rate of infrastructure charges for Active Links of
Licensed Telecom Service Providers to be charged in terms of the
1
circular dated 12th  June, 2012 has been made effective from 1st
April, 2013 instead of 1st April, 2009 taking note of increase of 10%
per annum between 1st April, 2009 to 31st March, 2013 as payable
on 1st  April, 2013.     As consequence thereto, the revised rates
introduced by the appellant as per circular dated 12th June, 2012,
which   although   were   proposed   from   1st  April,   2009,   shall   be
applicable with effect from 1st April, 2013 but that was declined by
the Tribunal under the order impugned. 
2. It   will   be   apposite   to   take   a   narration   of   facts   for   better
appreciation of the controversy raised in the instant appeals. 
3. The respondents herein who have been granted licenses under
Section 4 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, for providing telecom
services   such   as   Universal   Access   Service/Cellular   Mobile
Telephone   Service/National   Long   Distance   Service,   etc.   and   the
service providers entered into Interconnection Agreements with the
appellant which is a public sector undertaking for interconnection
of their telecom networks with that of the appellant.   
4. Whenever   a   new   operator   wishes   to   start   operations,   it   is
necessary for such an operator to interconnect with various other
2
networks of the incumbent operators that are already in existence.
It is for this reason that interconnection as well as the terms on
which  the  same  is  to   be  provided,  is   regulated  by  the   telecom
regulations.       The   various   operators   designate   some   of   their
switches/exchanges as points of interconnect (POI) from which the
interconnection facility is provided by a physical connection on the
ports   available   in   such   points   of   interconnect.   Sometimes,   the
newcomer called the interconnection seeker in common parlance,
may ask for certain other facilities/resources from the incumbent
operators,   which   may   not   be   mandated   by   the   regulations,   on
mutually agreeable terms. 
5. The   dispute   in   the   present   batch   of   appeals   pertains   to
charges for infrastructure facilities which are being provided by the
appellant to the batch of respondents, which were increased by a
circular dated 12th June, 2012, w.e.f. 1st April, 2009.   The question
that arose was as to whether the appellant was justified in raising
charges   for   infrastructure   facilities   with   retrospective   operation
from 1st April, 2009, more so, when the yearly charges are paid by
the service providers (respondents) upfront in advance every year. 
3
6. Interconnect Agreements are executed between the parties and
as per clause 2.1.9, infrastructure facilities will be provided, subject
to availability and feasibility.     Rental for use of such space and
mounting shall be determined by the provider of such facility.  As
per clause 6.3.3 of the Interconnect Agreement, it is not mandatory
for the appellant to provide any infrastructure to the respondents,
which they are themselves supposed to arrange.     The extract of
clauses   2.1.9   and   6.3.3,   which   are   relevant   for   the   purpose   is
reproduced hereinbelow:
“Clause 2.1.9
Irrespective   of   who   owns   a   transmission   system   of   the   link
interconnecting one party’s exchange to the exchange of the other
party, each party subject to availability and feasibility may provide
accommodation for the terminals of such equipment of the other
party located in its premises. Each party may permit mounting of
antennae   for   interconnect   link   owned   by  the   other  party  on   its
transmission towers subject to feasibility. Rental for use of such
space and mounting shall be determined by the provider of such
facility. Arrangements for installation, operation and maintenance of
such equipment will be arrived at by mutual agreement.” 
“6.3.3   Other charges
It shall not be mandatory for BSNL to provide any infrastructure to
BSO which BSO himself is supposed to arrange. In case the BSO is
not able to bring his interconnecting transmission link upto the
BSNL’s   designated   exchange   for   the   POI,   BSNL   may   subject   to
availability and payment of the prescribed charges by BSO, provide
inter exchange junctions on PCMs from the exchange upto which
the BSO has brought its transmission link to the location of POI.
These charges shall be same as prescribed by TRAI for leased lines
from time to time or on R&G & conditions as the case may be.
4
For any other infrastructure like space BSNL’s building, provision of
power supply, air conditioning, mounting of antenna on towers or
building tops if feasible, the charges and other terms & conditions
for the same shall be as prescribed by BSNL from time to time
separately.”
7. The appellant, in  the first instance, by circular dated 19th
February, 2001 fixed the rental charges for providing facilities i.e.
accommodation, power supply, tower space, cable ducts, etc. to the
private licensed service providers and it was specifically mentioned
that the appellant reserve the right to renew the charges as well as
the   electricity  charges   as  and   when   being  revised  by  the   State
Electricity   Boards.       In   furtherance   thereof,   Interconnect
Agreements   were   executed   between   the   appellant   and   the
respondents/service providers herein earlier on 31st  March, 2004
and it was made explicit that the appellant has no obligation to
provide infrastructure facilities and it is for the respondents/service
providers   to   arrange   the   same   at   their   own   and   in   case
infrastructure facilities are taken from the appellant, it shall be on
the rates prescribed by the appellant from time to time.   
8. In furtherance thereof, the appellant revised the infrastructure
charges for Active Links leased to the operators by its circular dated
30th May, 2006 w.e.f. 1st April, 2006 and all such charges are to be
5
leviable   upfront   every   year   and   the   circular   indicates   the
justification   of   revising   the   infrastructure   charges   based   on
classification of cities introduced by the Central Government for the
purposes of determining the House Rent Allowance.  The extract of
the Circular dated 30th  May, 2006, although not under challenge,
but may be relevant for proper appreciation of the grievance raised
by the appellant is reproduced as under:
“Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.
(A Government of India Enterprise)
613­B, Statesman House, B­148,
Barakhamba Road, New Delhi – 110001
(Commercial Branch)
No. 103­1/2006­Comml.             Dated:   30th  May,
2006
Subject:   Infrastructure   charges   for   Active   Links   of   Licensed
Telecom Service Providers
In   view   of   various   reference   received   in   this   office   on   the
subject, the competent authority has reviewed the infrastructure
sharing   charges   prescribed   vide   Circular   No.116­14/96­PHC   (pt)
dated 19th February, 2001 and decided to revise the charges as given
below:­
2. Definition of links connected to BSNL network:
a.  Active  Links: These are the links of Licensed Telecom Service
Providers for which transmission equipment of service provider is
installed   in   BSNL’s   exchange   premises   and   their   network   is
connected through it. The rental charges of infrastructure in this
case have been streamlined and are given below in Para 3.
b.  Passive Links: These are the links of Licensed Telecom Service
Providers for which their transmission equipment is installed close
to   BSNL   exchange   premises   and   only   transmission   cable
6
(with/without modem) is brought in the BSNL’s telephone exchange
premises.   Charges   for   this   have   already   been   prescribed   vide
Circular No.103­4/2004­Comml dated 29th April, 2005.
3. Rental changes for infrastructure sharing have been divided
into following components:
a. Charges for sharing of building space.
b. Electricity and miscellaneous charges.
c. Charges for Tower sharing.
d. Charges for duct sharing.
a. Charges for sharing of building space:
(i) To simplify rent assessment, it has been decided to classify the
areas/cities based on the classification followed by Government of
India for House Rent Allowance i.e. A1, A, B1, B2 and C class cities.
For the sake of simplicity, it has further been decided to have only in
four categories i.e. A (for A1 and A), B (for B), C (C) and Unclassified
cities.
(ii) Accordingly, the rates for one transmission bay (including space
for   one   box   of   OF   termination   and   DDF   as   required)   in   these
categories of cities may be charged as under. The space is normally
given in technical area of exchange building, which is having high
specifications for installation of telecom equipments.   The Licensed
Telecom Service Providers are given space for installation of their
various equipments by officer­in­charge of building on approval of
equipment installation plan by Head of SSA:
Categories of City Charges
A Rs.36000 per bay per annum
B Rs.28000 per bay per annum
C Rs.20000 per bay per annum
Unclassified Rs.13000 per bay per annum
b).  Miscellaneous   Infrastructure   service   charges:  These   charges
include the sharing of following services:
1). DCT power at – 48V up to 10A/ transmission bay;
2). AC power for lights, fans, testing instruments etc;
3).   Air   Conditioning   charges   (sharing   of   existing   air
conditioning system);
4). Generator Backup;
5).   Earthing   charges   (Tapping   from   exchange   earth   bar   is
allowed)
7
6) Fire equipment (Sharing in case of requirement).
As the rates of electricity and capital expenditure of BSNL in
developing these facilities is varying as per the size of city, the rates
for one transmission bay in these categories of cities will be as
under:
Categories of City Charges
A Rs.2,00,000 per bay per annum
B Rs.1,80,000 per bay per annum
C Rs.1,50,000 per bay per annum
Unclassifie
d
Rs.1,20,000 per bay per annum
C. Tower Charges: Charges per antenna will be as under:
Sl
.
Tower Height All Cities
1. Up to 30 meters Rs.1,20,000   per
annum
2. 31­60 meters RS.   2,50,000   per
annum
3. More   than   60
meters
Rs.4,00,000   per
annum
The above charges will be multiplied by no. of antennas in
case multiple antennas are installed by Licensed Telecom Service
Providers.
d. Duct Charges: Permission may be granted to Licensed Telecom
Service Providers to lay one 50 mm pipe inside the BSNL exchange
premises   to   lay   their   OF   cable.   It   will   be   the   responsibility   of
Licensed   Telecom   Service   Providers   to   restore   telecom   exchange
building and its premises in original shape after their construction
work is over which should be done within one month. A refundable
security   of   Rs.50,000   may   be   obtained   from   Licensed   Telecom
Service Providers before the permission is given.
BSNL will not lease its own DUCTs as far as possible. Duct
rental for already leased ducts of BSNL may be continued to be
charged as at present, i.e.:
=[Cost of Duct x No. of Cable x 36%] /[Total no. of pipes in duct]
8
4. Applicability of above chargesa) These revised rates will be applicable w.e.f. 1st April, 2006 with a
provision   of   10%   annual   increase   every   year   i.e.,   01.04.2007
onwards. Billing cycle shall be from 01.04 to 31.03 of every year.
Hence, billing cycle for all existing links may be shifted to the new
arrangement;
b) All these charges will be leviable in advance every year;
c) In case of change of classification of cities, high classification will
be applicable at the time of yearly renewal only. The charges will be
applicable financial year wise;
d) No cash refunds shall be made and any excess payments received
by   BSNL,   due   to   difference   in   charges   based   on   old   and   new
formula, shall be adjusted in future bills of party concerned.
(R P Bhalla)
Assistant Director General (Commercial)”
9. It may further be noticed that the revised rates applicable
w.e.f. 1st April, 2006 with a provision of 10% annual increase every
year i.e. 1st April, 2007 onwards and the billing cycle shall be from
1
st  April to 31st  March and the charges will be leviable upfront in
advance every year with a further stipulation that in case of change
of classification/categorization of cities, higher classification will be
applicable at the time of yearly renewal only and charges will be
applicable on each financial year.   
10. The Government of India, Ministry of Finance, by its circular
dated 29th August, 2008, revised the classification of cities effective
9
from   1st  September,   2008   and   the   cities   have   been   revised   as
follows:
“2. Based   on   the   recommendations   of   the   Sixth   Central  Pay
Commission, the earlier classification of cities has been revised
viz., A­1 to “X”; A, B­1 & B­2 to “Y” and C & Unclassified to “Z”. In
determining the revised classification, the population of Urban
Agglomerate area of the city has been taken into consideration.
Accordingly, the rates of House Rent Allowance shall be as under:
Classification of  Rates   of   House   Rent
Allowance
Cities/Towns as a percentage of (Basic Pay
+
NPA where applicable)
X 30%
Y 20%
Z 10%
11. The   Government   of   India   re­classified   the   cities   w.e.f.   1st
September, 2008 but so far as the  appellant is concerned, the
circular   revising   the   infrastructure   charges   for   telecom   service
providers in terms of circular of the Government of India dated 29th
August, 2008 came to be introduced by a circular dated 12th June,
2012, but charges stood revised retrospectively w.e.f. 1st April, 2009
with a provision of 10% annual increase every year w.e.f. 1st April,
2010 onwards and rest of the conditions remained the same.  The
10
impugned extract of part of the circular dated 12th  June, 2012 is
reproduced hereinbelow:­
“Rates & Costing Cell, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited,        A Govt. of India Enterprises
Corporate Office,
Janpath,
New Delhi – 110001
No.2­2/2009­R&C[CFA]  Dated: 12.06.2012
Circular R&C – CFA No.11/11­12
Subject :  Infrastructure  Charges   for  Active  Links  of  Licensed
Telecom Service Providers
In view of re­classification of cities and revision of rates of house
rent   vide   Govt.   of   India   Department   of   Expenditure   letter
No.2(8)/2008­E­II(B) dated 29.08.2008, the existing rental charges
for Infrastructure Sharing by the other licensed service providers
fixed vide BSNL HQ No.103­1/2006­Comml. Dated 30.05.2006 has
been reviewed by Competent Authority and it has been decided to
revise the charges w.e.f. 01.04.2009, as details given below:
1. Charges for building space.
(Rates for  one  transmission  bay   including    space   for
one   box   OF transmission and DDF as required)  
S.No
.
Classification of 
Cities/Towns
Charges w.e.f. 01.04.2009
1. X Rs.61,606 per annum per bay
2. Y Rs.47,916 per annum per bay
3. Z Rs.26,620 per annum per bay
2. Misc.  Infrastructure  Service  Charges   :     These       charges
include the sharing of following services.
1. DC power at – 48V up to 10A/transmission bay;
2. AC power for lights, fans, testing instruments etc.;
3. Air   conditioning   charges   (sharing   of   existing   air
conditioning system);
4. Generator Backup;
5.    Earthling charges (Tapping from exchange earth bar is     
   allowed);
11
6. Fire equipment (sharing in case of requirement).  
S.No
.
Classification of 
Cities/Towns
Charges w.e.f. 01.04.2009
1. X Rs.2,95,778 per annum per bay
2. Y Rs.2,66,200 per annum per bay
3. Z Rs.1,99,650 per annum per bay
3. The   other   two   infrastructure   Sharing   rentals   viz  Tower
Sharing Charges and Duct Charges, which are not dependent on
re­classification of classification of city and house rent rates, shall
remain unchanged and be charged as per this office letter No.103­
1/2006­Comml. Dated 30.05.2006.
4. Other terms and conditions applicable to above charges are:
i) These   revised   rates   will be applicable w.e.f. 01.04.2009
with   provision   of   10%   annual   increase   every   year   i.e.
01.04.2010 onwards.  Billing cycle shall be from 01.04.2004
to   31.03.2013   of   every   year.     Hence,   billing   cycle   for   all
existing links may be shifted to the new arrangement;
ii) All these charges will be leviable in advance every year;
iii) In   case   of   change   of   classification   of   cities,   higher
classification 
                    will be applicable at the time of yearly renewal only. The
charges 
                   will be applicable financial year wise;
iv) TAXs, duties as per Govt. orders from time to time will be
levied 
          extra.
v) This Circular is issued based on the approval of Competent
Authority in NOW­CFA file No.6­9/2010­POI (Infra)(Pt.).   For
any Clarification/correspondence, in this regard, matter may
be taken up with NOW­CFA Section, BSNL Corporate Office,
Janpath,   New   Delhi   –   110001   [Tel   No.011­23711795   Fax
No.011­23734135].
Sd/­
(AGM(T&C­CFA)”
12. It may be relevant to note at this stage that the circular dated
12th June, 2012 revised the infrastructure facilities retrospectively
w.e.f. 1st April, 2009, however, the fact is that all the telecom service
12
providers have made their payments for the previous years in terms
of the circular dated 30th  May, 2006 according to the terms of
Interconnect Agreements where the charges are leviable upfront
every year and after introducing the circular dated 12th June, 2012
w.e.f. 1st April, 2009, additional bills were raised by the appellant
for the previous years for which the upfront payment was made by
each of the telecom service provider and that became the subject
matter of challenge at the instance of the telecom service providers
(respondents herein) by approaching the Tribunal.
13. The learned Tribunal, after taking note of the submissions and
the pleadings on record, arrived to a conclusion that the appellant
is well within its rights to revise the rates according to classification
of cities and it was for the respondents to continue to use the
resources of the appellant at the revised rates or take the same
from other resources if available and it was open to the service
provider to avail the infrastructure facilities such as building space,
etc. either from the appellant or from any other service provider, if
any.   
13
14. The   limited   question   which   the   Tribunal   considered   was
regarding the rates prescribed by the appellant under the circular
dated   12th  June,   2012   could   have   been   made   applicable
retrospectively w.e.f. 1st  April, 2009 and taking into consideration
the   backdrop   of   the   matter,   while   upholding   the   right   of   the
appellant (BSNL) to revise the rates of the infrastructure facilities in
question   held   that   the   circular   dated   12th  June,   2012   of   the
appellant shall be applicable prospectively w.e.f. 1st  April, 2013,
which is the next financial year instead of 1st April, 2009 and upto
31st  March,   2013,   the   infrastructure   facilities   provided   by   the
appellant to the telecom service providers shall be charged at the
rates and as per classification of cities prescribed in the circular
dated 30th  May, 2006 and the consequential effect is either for
refund   or   for   realization   of   charges,   if   any,   the   same   may   be
accounted for by the appellant in terms of the judgment impugned
dated 20th  August, 2014.   Relevant extract of the judgment dated
20th August, 2014 is reproduced hereinbelow:
“In view of the aforesaid circumstances, while upholding the
right of the respondent­BSNL to revise the rates of the infrastructure
facilities in question, we direct that the revised rates as per the
circular dated 12.06.2012 of the Respondent shall be applicable
14
with effect from 01.04.2013 which is the next financial year. Up to
31.03.2013, the infrastructure facilities provided by the respondent
to   the   petitioners   shall   be   charged   at   the   rates   and   as   per
classification   of   cities   as   prescribed   in   the   circular   dated
30.05.2006. The excess rates, wherever realised from the petitioners,
shall be refunded back to the petitioners along with interest at the
rate as is prescribed in the interconnect agreements for delayed
payments from the date of realization of these amounts and till the
time of filing of the petitions along with pendente lite and future
interest @9% till the payment is made. The refunds shall be made
within a period of four weeks. If any amount is found payable by the
petitioners in terms of this order, the same shall also be paid along
with interest, as payable in case of refunds, and shall be paid within
four weeks.”
15. The appellant, at this stage, filed an application before the
Tribunal seeking clarification of the judgment and order dated 20th
August, 2014 on the premise that the rate of infrastructure charge
for active links of licensed telecom service providers indicated in the
circular dated 12th June, 2012 has become effective from 1st April,
2013 instead of 1st April, 2009.    In the given circumstances, the
10% notional increase per annum between 1st  April, 2009 to 31st
March, 2013 is leviable and can be charged from 1st April, 2013 but
that application was dismissed by the Tribunal by its later order
dated 14th October, 2014 with a clarification that the revised rates
as per the circular dated 12th June, 2012 shall be applicable w.e.f.
1
st  April, 2013 and the rates which were applied w.e.f. 1st  April,
15
2009 are to be applied w.e.f. 1st  April, 2013 without any notional
increase and consequently disposed of the application filed by the
appellant. Relevant extract of the order dated 14th October, 2014 is
reproduced hereinbelow:
“We, however, do not find any such direction in the judgment.
On the contrary, if the rates mentioned in this circular are to be
taken w.e.f. 01.04.2009 and then notionally increased by certain
percentage   every   year   to   arrive   at   a   rate   to   be   applicable   from
01.04.2013,   it   will   be   contrary   to   the   letter   and   spirit   of   the
judgment. The direction in the judgment is clear that revised rates
as   per   the   circular   dated   12.06.2012   shall   be   applicable   w.e.f.
01.04.2013 and, therefore, the rate which was applied as per the
circular w.e.f. 01­04­2009 is to be applied w.e.f. 01.04.2013 without
any notional increase. We, however, make it clear that this will be
without prejudice to the right of the respondent­BSNL to revise the
rates prospectively, and in accordance with the agreement between
the parties.”
16. That   both   the   orders   passed   by   the   Tribunal   dated   20th
August, 2014 and 14th October, 2014 became the subject matter of
challenge in the instant batch of appeals before us.
17. It may be further noticed that in furtherance of the circular
dated 12th  June, 2012, circular dated 13th  May, 2015 has been
notified   revising   the   infrastructure   charges   for   active   links   of
licensed telecom service providers w.e.f. 1st  April, 2015 leviable in
advance   for   the   year   2015­16   onwards   and   the   justification
tendered   by   the   appellant   was   that   it   is   based   on   commercial
16
viability and enhanced maintenance cost and the appeals filed by
the service providers assailing the circular dated 13th  May, 2015
came   to   be   dismissed   by   the   Tribunal   by   judgment   dated   18th
October, 2019 and the appeal preferred against the judgment of the
Tribunal came to be dismissed by this Court by an order date 17th
February, 2020 in Civil Appeal No.1438 of 2020.
18. Counsel for the appellant in the first instance has tried to
persuade this Court that the rate of infrastructure charges stood
revised on the basis of the circular issued by the Government of
India, Ministry of Finance, revising the classification of cities vide
its circular dated 29th August, 2008 and that became effective from
1
st  September, 2008 and it was the reason for which the circular
dated   12th  June,   2012   became   effective   in   revising   the
infrastructure charges for telecom service providers w.e.f. 1st April,
2009.  The appellant revised the rates based on the classification of
cities and such revision was permissible in relation to commercial
agreements duly supported with the evidence on record.  
19. Counsel  for the  appellant  further contended that  once the
competence of the appellant in laying down the charges has been
17
upheld by the Tribunal, retrospective application to the circular
dated 12th June, 2012 should not have been interfered with by the
Tribunal,   but   in   the   next   breath,   has   submitted   that   if   the
retrospective  applicability  of   the  circular  dated  12th  June,  2012
effective   from   1st  April,   2009   is   not   sustainable,   at   least   the
appellant is within its rights to make the charges leviable after
notional fixation by increase of 10% every year w.e.f. 1st April, 2009
and,   to   this   extent,   the   finding   of   the   Tribunal   is   not   legally
sustainable and deserves to be interfered with by this Court. 
20. Counsel further submits that so far as the notional fixation of
charges to be effective from 1st April, 2013 is concerned, in terms of
circular dated 12th June, 2012, there is a provision of 10% annual
increase every year w.e.f. 1st April, 2010 onwards and, in the given
circumstances, even if the infrastructure charges as levied by the
appellant to be charged from service providers at the revised rates
applicable w.e.f. 1st April, 2009 are not chargeable because of the
impugned judgment of the Tribunal still the service providers are
under   an   obligation   to   pay   w.e.f.   1st  April,   2013   the   notional
increase of charges based on 10% annual increase and this was a
18
manifest error which the Tribunal has committed in passing the
judgment impugned and the same needs to be interfered with by
this Court.
21. Counsel for the respondents, on the other hand, submits that
the right of the appellant to revise the rate of infrastructure facilities
indeed after the finding has been recorded by the Tribunal has not
been questioned by the respondents in the later proceedings, but if
the circular dated 12th June, 2012 could not be given retrospective
effect w.e.f. 1st  April, 2009, at least no notional increase of 10%
every year could have been permissible to be charged from the
service providers w.e.f. 1st  April, 2013 and if that is being made
permissible, what could not have been directly chargeable from the
service providers can be indirectly charged at the rates which the
appellant is entitled to claim as the infrastructure charges w.e.f. 1st
April, 2013 and that was the reason the Tribunal intervened in the
matter and clarified in its latter order that there shall be no notional
increase of 10% every year as being indicated in the circular dated
12th June, 2012 and the appellant is under an obligation to charge
the rates as applicable on 1st  April, 2009 to be applied w.e.f. 1st
19
April, 2013 without any notional increase.  The circular dated 12th
June, 2012 applicable prospectively w.e.f. 1st April, 2013 was to be
purposively interpreted and the plea of notional increase by 10%
every year in revising the rates, to be charged from 1st April, 2013 is
not legally sustainable.
22.     Counsel for the respondents, while supporting the finding
recorded by the Tribunal under the impugned judgment, further
submits that if what is being prayed for by the appellant is accepted
by this Court, each service provider will have to bear the additional
financial burden for the period for which they have not charged any
additional charge from their customers and since the respondents
have not charged from their customers for the previous years from
1
st  April, 2009 onwards, it will carry a financial burden on the
service providers for which they are not at fault. 
23. As a matter of fact, the present dispute survives regarding
payment  of  infrastructure charges for the  limited  period  of two
years i.e. from 1st April, 2013 to 31st March, 2015.
24. We have heard learned counsel for the parties and with their
assistance perused the material available on record. 
20
25. That   the   authority   of   the   appellant   in   revising   the
infrastructure charges for active links leased to telecom operators is
not a subject matter of challenge and none of the respondents have
questioned   the   authority   of   the   appellant   in   revising   the
infrastructure charges for active links leased to telecom operators.  
26. The   limited   question   which   has   been   raised   for   our
consideration is as to whether the rates prescribed by the appellant
under   the   circular   dated   12th  June,   2012   could   be   applied
retrospectively w.e.f. 1st  April, 2009 or be effective from 1st  April,
2013, as observed by the Tribunal and whether the appellant is
entitled to claim 10% notional increase every year from 1st  April,
2009 to be applicable from 1st April, 2013.   
27. So far as the impugned circular dated 12th  June, 2012 is
concerned, it stipulates that it shall be made effective from 1st April,
2009 and the rates would revise from 1st  April, 2009 with 10%
annual   increase   w.e.f.   1st  April,   2010,   particularly,   in   the
circumstances when all the infrastructure and other charges are
being paid upfront every year.   
21
28. It is not disputed that each of the service provider has paid
upfront for the previous years from 1st April, 2009 in terms of the
earlier circular dated 30th  May, 2006 until the circular dated 12th
June, 2012 was introduced.  
29. It is a settled principle of law that it is the Union Parliament
and   State   Legislatures   that   have   plenary   powers   of   legislation
within   the   fields   assigned   to   them,   and   subject   to   certain
constitutional   and   judicially   recognized   restrictions,   they   can
legislate prospectively as well as retrospectively.   Competence to
make a law for a past period on a subject depends upon present
competence   to   legislate   on   that   subject.     By   a   retrospective
legislation, the Legislature may make a law which is operative for a
limited period prior to the date of its coming into force and is not
operative either on that date or in future.
30. The   power   to   make   retrospective   legislations   enables   the
Legislature to obliterate an amending Act completely and restore
the law as it existed before the amending Act, but at the same time,
administrative/executive orders or circulars, as the case may be, in
the   absence   of   any   legislative   competence   cannot   be   made
22
applicable   with   retrospective   effect.       Only   law   could   be   made
retrospectively if it was expressly provided by the Legislature in the
Statute.  Keeping in mind the afore­stated principles of law on the
subject, we are of the view that applicability of the circular dated
12th June, 2012 to be effective retrospectively from 1st April 2009, in
revising the infrastructure charges, is not legally sustainable and to
this extent, we are in agreement with the view expressed by the
Tribunal under the impugned judgment.  
31. So far as the submission made by the appellant with regard to
the notional increase of charges by a certain percentage every year
as   being   referred   to   in   the   circular   dated   12th  June,   2012   is
concerned, we have not been able to persuade ourselves with the
finding recorded by the Tribunal.   The reason is that the appellant
might not be justified in making the circular dated 12th June, 2012
effective   from   1st  April,   2009,   but   once   the   competence   of   the
appellant in fixing the rates of infrastructure charges in question
stands   affirmed   and   is   not   a   subject   matter   of   challenge,   the
appellant is well within its rights to make their charges leviable on
notional fixation by increase of charges by a certain percentage
23
every year in terms of circular dated 12th June, 2012 from each of
the service provider as being notionally applicable from 1st  April,
2013. In other words, the service provider is not under an obligation
to pay any additional infrastructure charges which was prescribed
by the appellant under its circular dated 12th  June, 2012 for the
previous years, effective from 1st April, 2009, but at the same point
of time, it was open for the appellant to notionally fix the charges to
be computed and became payable from 1st  April, 2013, based on
10% annual increase every year or by any other mechanism which
may have a reasonable justification.  That such notionally increased
charges can indeed be leviable on the service providers and to this
extent, the order passed by the Tribunal, in our considered view, is
not sustainable in law and deserves to be set aside. 
32. Consequently, the appeals stand partly allowed.   The order of
the Tribunal dated 20th  August, 2014 followed by the order dated
14th  October, 2014 are hereby modified and the appellant is at
liberty to revise the notional rates based on 10% increase every year
in terms of circular dated 12th June, 2012 as applicable on 1st April,
2013 and to raise its additional demand/bills based on notional
24
increase of infrastructure charges effective as on 1st April, 2013 to
the   service   providers/respondents   herein   and   if   the   service
providers/ respondents fail to pay, consequences in terms of the
agreements executed between the parties shall follow. 
33. Pending application(s), if any, shall stand disposed of.
…………………………….J.
(AJAY RASTOGI)
…………………………….J.
(B.V. NAGARATHNA)
NEW DELHI
SEPTEMBER 22, 2022.
25

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Questions on Indian Constitution for UPSC 2020 Pre Exam

संविधान की प्रमुख विशेषताओं का उल्लेख | Characteristics of the Constitution of India

भारतीय संविधान से संबंधित 100 महत्वपूर्ण प्रश्न उतर