New Delhi: In a major development, the telecom tribunal TDSAT, Friday set aside all penalties imposed by the government on new telecom operators for delay in meeting roll out obligations of services.
The TDSAT bench headed by Justice S B Sinha said that DoT did not follow "principals of natural justice" and did not give any opportunity to the telecom operators before imposing penalty or liquidated damages.
The tribunal further directed the government to refund the amount collected from the operators with 12 percent interest within 4-weeks from Friday.
According to estimates available, the DoT has collected so far over Rs 300 crore against claims of about Rs 400 crore from the new telecom operators as liquidated damages during the last one year.
Penalties have been imposed on new telecom operators, including Etisalat DB, Videocon, Loop, Aircel and Uninor among others.
TDSAT's ruling came forward over a batch of 70 petitions filed by various telecom operators challenging liquidated damages imposed on them by DoT for various circles.
It also directed DoT to give a fresh hearing to the telecom operators on this issue in accordance with today's judgement.
The tribunal further said that if there was any ambiguity in the terms of licence, the benefit has to be given in favour of licensee (operator) and it is against the licensor (DoT).
It also held that the DoT has not suffered any damages according to the law.
Earlier, passing an interim order in this matter, the tribunal had directed various telecom operators to deposit 60 percent of the liquidated damages imposed by the DoT.
Following today's order, now the government will refund the amount along with the interest to the operators.
The DoT had imposed penalty over the operators who were alloted spectrum in 2008 during the tenure of former telecom minister A Raja for delay in raising necessary infrastructure to commence their service obligations.