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SC dismissed plea of Jio & CCI seeking probe against Idea, Airtel and Vodafone

December 6, 2018[2018] 100 taxmann.com 163 (SC)
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CCI : Where Reliance Jio had filed an information alleging anti-competitive agreement/cartel having been formed by three major telecom operators, namely Idea, Airtel and Vodafone and allegations, in effect, pertained to violations of Interconnect Agreements and obligations under TRAI Regulations by these three operators against Jio, which fell with specialized domain of TRAI(Telecom Regulatory Authority of India), dispute essentially touched upon compliance of obligations under TRAI Act and Regulations

• Thus, in first instance it is the TRAI which should decide these jurisdictional issues, which come within domain of the TRAI Act as they not only arise out of telecom licenses granted to service providers, the service providers are governed by the TRAI Act and are supposed to follow various regulations and directions issued by the TRAI itself. Thus, balance will be maintained by permitting TRAI in first instance to deal with and decide jurisdictional aspects which can be more competently handled by it. Once that exercise is done and there are findings returned by the TRAI which lead to the prima facie conclusion that the telecom operators have indulged in anti-competitive practices, CCI can be activated to investigate the matter going by the criteria laid down in the relevant provisions of the Competition Act and take it to its logical conclusion. Thus, CCI could exercise jurisdiction only after proceedings under TRAI Act had concluded/attained finality, i.e only after TRAI returns its findings on the jurisdictional aspects.

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