Delhi HC Stays TDSAT Order ‘Preventing’ Prepaid Mobile Subscribers to Exercise Right to Portability

The TDSAT order had stayed a direction passed by TRAI, directing all service providers to enable portability facility for all mobile subscribers.

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New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Wednesday stayed an order passed by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) that prevented prepaid mobile phone subscribers from exercising their right to portability.

Justice Rekha Palli issued a notice to Vodafone Idea, seeking its response on a petition filed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) challenging the tribunal’s order that stayed the regulator’s mandate requiring all telecom service providers to permit one text message for portability and receiving a Unique Porting Code.

According to Live Law, the impugned TDSAT order dated December 24 had stayed a direction passed by TRAI dated December 7, directing all service providers to enable with immediate effect, for all mobile subscribers, the facility to send SMS on short code 1900, in order to exercise their right to avail porting out facility. The said portability facility is in accordance with the MNP Regulations, 2009.

However, Vodafone Idea Limited had introduced some tariff offers or vouchers which did not provide SMS facility to the subscribers, therefore not being compliant from MNP Regulations, 2009 perspective, the TRAI plea said, as per the news report.

Trai said in its petition that it had in the past received several complaints from mobile subscribers for not being able to send SMS on short code 1900 for availing the portability facility. The regulator noticed that the telecom service providers were not providing outgoing SMS facility in certain prepaid vouchers.

Following this, TRAI asked the telecom operators to allow customers to port mobile numbers with any prepaid or postpaid plan.

The TRAI plea states that other service providers like Bharti Airtel Limited and Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited had already complied with the said direction.

The judge asked the company “why was it shying away from one SMS” and opined that a stay on the TRAI directive would cause irreparable loss to the public.

“I am of the prima facie view that the directions issued on December 7, 2021 in no way take away the freedom granted to the respondent to fix tariff plans. In fact, any interim stay of the direction as done (by TDSAT) will cause irreparable loss to the general public,” the judge said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing TRAI, contended that the December direction was issued in public interest and to ensure that all consumers have the option of mobile number portability, irrespective of their tariff plan not having the text message facility.

“Merely because a poor person has taken a prepaid plan for less rupees, he or she cannot be deprived of his or her right to portability, that too when the telecom service provider is required to allow only one SMS, that too on regular charges being levied by it on the consumer,” TRAI said in its petition filed through lawyer Arjun Natarajan.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for Vodafone Idea, defended the stay imposed by the TDSAT and submitted that the telecom operator’s mobile network is already equipped to provide portability to the users.

The matter would be heard next on April 25.

(With inputs from PTI)