SC issues notice to Centre, Trai to fix cap on SMS charge

It asked the government and TRAI to file their replies within four weeks.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Centre and TRAI on a plea seeking its direction to the government to fix cost-based tariff as cap for SMSes in view of "arbitrary charges" being levied by telecom operators.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir agreed to hear a PIL which pleaded that the government and the sector regulator should put a cap on the tariff of telecom services and the companies should not be allowed to levy termination charges(TC) for SMSes.

It asked the government and TRAI to file their replies within four weeks.

The court passed the order on a PIL filed by a registered society Telecom Watchdrog which alleged that all operators have started raising the tariff arbitrarily, taking advantage of the situation of reduced competition after the cancellation of 122 licenses by the apex court on February 6, 2012.

"In case of SMS, the cost of terminating a communication is negligible and therefore, TRAI had left it to the operators. All the operators had been following BAK (Bill-And-Keep) method, that means zero TC. However, of late, certain operators are trying to put a base price of a minimum of 10 paisa per SMS by way of imposing a levy of 10 paisa per SMS under the guise of TC," advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, said.

Termination charges are paid by an operator from whose network calls or SMSes originate to the one on whose network these communications are made.

The petitioner submitted that levy of TC would increase the base tariff of SMS many-fold and TC for SMS, being insisted on by certain operators in their bilateral agreement, are arbitrary, illegal, non-transparent.