Mukesh Ambani says COAI's 'back door operator' remark on Jio contempt of court

New Delhi: Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio slammed the telecom lobby group COAI for calling the company a "back door operator", saying the charge has already been rejected by the Supreme court and leveling such an allegation is "contempt of court".

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Reuters

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Reuters

New entrant Jio in its September 23 letter had sought an overhaul of rules and regulations of the the Cellular
Operators Association of India (COAI) and alleged that the current norms were skewed in favour of incumbent operators, prompting the operators' body charge the company of being a "back door operator" that acquired the licence through a front entity.

"The press statement of COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews is surreptitious, defamatory, and an act of contempt of the orders of the Supreme Court of India and devoid of any merit," Reliance Jio said in a statement.

Countering Mathews' claim that issues raised by Jio were bilateral and have been addressed within the association, the company said COAI Director General himself had raised several bilateral issues in external forums in the last few months without ever discussing these within the association.

All the forums within the COAI, of which Reliance Jio is also a member, are "controlled by the incumbent dominant operators owing to their disproportionate voting rights," the statement said.

Jio, which is locked in a bitter battle with incumbents like Airtel over providing points of interconnection to help its users complete call on rival networks, said Mathews had skirted away from discussing the genuine need to deliberate its concerns and fair need to overhaul COAI's regulations.

"The allegations of Rajan S Mathews in the press statement to the effect that Reliance Jio entered the sector as a 'Back Door Operator' are on the face of it defamatory and borders on contempt of the orders of the Hon'ble Supreme
Court. COAI and Rajan S Mathews is fully aware that these allegations were part of a public interest litigation filed before the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India...and all of the said allegations have been duly adjudicated upon and rejected by the Hon'ble Supreme Court," it said.

Stating it was aware of the extant COAI's regulations at the time of becoming a member, the company said "it cannot be restrained to raise its genuine and fair concerns, especially and more so, when the incumbent dominant operators are colluding to use the very same COAI regulations against Reliance Jio to promote their anti-competitive activities".

Reliance Jio said it has already put Mathews on notice demanding apology for issuing the press statement and has sought appropriate action by the COAI against him. "Should they not act upon it, Reliance Jio will pursue legal recourse with full vigour," the company added.

Reliance Jio said it had sought an overhaul of COAI's regulations by a committee comprising three retired Supreme Court Judges.

"These regulations as exist today admittedly are skewed in favour of incumbent operators, giving them de facto and de jure control over COAI to promote their vested interests," the statement said.

The company said it had in the letter quoted specific instances of flagrant misuse of COAI by the incumbent operators with the active connivance of Mathews.

The overhaul would only strengthen COAI and ensure that it works in furtherance of its stated objectives i.e. promoting the cause of the common and mutual interests of telecom operators; in accordance with basic tenets of democracy, discussions, fair and adequate representation; no alienation of its members; encouraging fair competition in the market, etc."

(Disclosure: Reliance Jio is owned by Reliance Industries, which also owns Network18, the publisher of Firstpost)

Updated Date: Sep 29, 2016 07:50 AM

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