Telecom tribunal TDSAT on Friday directed Uninor to pay 60 per cent of the penalty, demanded by the Department of Telecom (DoT), for failing to roll-out services within the stipulated period.
The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal bench, headed by TDSAT chairman Justice S B Sinha, allowed Uninor's plea but directed it to pay around Rs 9 crore (Rs 90 million) within two weeks.
"In our opinion, keeping in view the interest of the parties, interest of justice would be subserved if the petitioners (Uninor) are directed to deposit 60 per cent of the demanded amount within two weeks," said TDSAT in an interim order.
The tribunal observed that Uninor has raised the issue of delays in getting the "start up spectrum" from SACFA (Standing Advisory Committee for Frequency Allocation) and it needs to be determined by the bench.
"Uninor, in our opinion, have raised a prima facie case in as much as the question as to what is meant by 'start up spectrum' or 'average delay' are questions involving interpretation of different provisions of the licence vis a vis the other documents filed by it," the bench said.
Rejecting DoT's contention, TDSAT observed that the government should have given an opportunity to Uninor to give its opinion before demanding Liquidated Damages (LD) for delays in roll-out obligations. Later, Uninor said in a statement, "We welcome the TDSATs interim order today that acknowledges the merit of our arguments."
Uninor, a JV between Unitech and Norway's Telenor had approached TDSAT on January 4, challenging DoT's directive.
The company has already paid Rs 13.10 crore (Rs 131 million) for four circles and it has yet to pay approximately Rs 15.5 crore (Rs 155 million) for 6 other circles.
Uninor is one of the new operators which was allotted 2G spectrum, or radio waves, by former telecom minister A Raja and is under scanner on eligibility criteria.
DoT had sent notices to several firms, which got new 2G licenses bundled with start up spectrum but have not started offering services in various circles.
As per the conditions of the Unified Access Service License (UASL), the telcos are required to roll-out their networks within one year from the date of allocation of spectrum.
According to the agreement, in case new licencees fail to roll-out services within the stipulated period, DoT shall be entitled to recover LD charges.