The Telecom tribunal TDSAT has passed an interim order saying BSNL is not allowed to increase infrastructure charges retrospectively from April 2009.
The TDSAT said in the order, "Prima facie, we are of the view that it cannot be so done. Having regard to the fact that if the charges are to be increased and that too with retrospective effect, the purpose could not be achieved by taking recourse to clause 5.3.3 alone". The BSNL submission was that it could raise the charges from time to time as per agreement. "The words from 'time to time' by itself do not confer any authority on BSNL herein to give a retrospective effect to the charges levied by way of rental or infrastructural charges”.
The order further clarified, "The increase in the rate could have been effected only at the time of renewal of the agreement, i.e., with effect from April, 2013".
TDSAT's order was in response to petitions filed by Bharti Airtel, Idea, Tata Teleservices, Reliance Communications, Aircel, Vodafone South and Vodafone Digilink. TDSAT said, "They (operators) have made out a strong prima-facie case in their favour".
The private telecom firms pay infrastructure charges to BSNL as rental and maintenance fees since they have to keep link equipment in BSNL premises to connect their customers with the NLD (domestic) and ILD (international) networks.
BSNL had decided to increase infrastructural charges on August 23, 2012 retrospectively from April 1, 2009. The operators protested against the BSNL decision, who had an interconnect agreement in place with the PSU after 2001 and they also said they had already paid infrastructural charges for 2012-2013 in advance.