LHC Suspends PTA Order Against Worldcall

As the Lahore High Court (LHC) has stayed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) decision to suspend the Long Distance International (LDI) license of the Worldcall Telecom Ltd, the PTA has asked the entire telecom sector of the country to keep providing telecom facilities to the Worldcall.

On May 7, the PTA had suspended LDI license of the Worldcall Telecom Ltd to finalise the Access Promotion Contribution (APC) for the Universal Service Fund (USF) amounting to Rs 396.157 million for the months of August, September and October 2009 including late payment charges, calculated up to October 30, 2010.

The PTA had also instructed the telecom operators across Pakistan to immediately suspend all the telecom facilities, lines/interconnection to the M/s Worldcall and submit the compliance report accordingly.

However, the very next day on May 8th, the Worldcall had filed a write petition with the Lahore High Court, challenging the PTA’s decision and seeking court intervention to prevent the authority from suspending its LDI licence.

In its subsequent order, the LHC has observed that same dues, as are claimed by the PTA against the petitioner, have been demanded by the respondent (PTA) from the M/s 4-B Gentel International (Pvt) Ltd dated 23rd of April, 2010 wherein 30 days have been granted to the licensee for making payment of Rs 216.386 million as the APC for the USF. However, in the case of Worldcall, the LHC has observed that the PTA has acted discriminately.

The LHC order further observed that the order of the PTA was contrary to the express findings given by this court in its earlier judgment dated March 5, 2010 that the Enforcement Order issued u/s 23 (3) of PTA act is liable to be implemented in accordance with the provisions of Rule 9 of the Pakistan Telecommunication Rules 200.

Rule 9(4) ibid requires that an enforcement order requiring a licensee to remedy a contravention must allow not less than 30 days for compliance to be rendered by the licensee. In case of failure by the licensee to render compliance, the authority (PTA) may issue notice to terminate licence of the licensee. In the present case, the impugned order expressly violates the rule laid down in the aforesaid judgment of this court as well as the requirement of a grace period for the petitioner to render compliance.

The LHC further observed that the international connectivity of the petitioner has been suspended on account of impugned orders and its operations have thereby ceased altogether. As a result, the petitioner has unlawfully been forced into contractual breach of its several international commitments apart from serious inconvenience being caused to its subscribers for international as well as local telecommunication access. The LHC subsequently ordered that until the next date of hearing, the impugned order as well as the impugned letter issued by the respondent (PTA) shall not be acted upon.

However, the swift pace at which the PTA had honoured the compliance of the court’s stay orders can be gauged from the fact that the authority withdrew its earlier orders and issued fresh instructions on Sunday (holiday) to all the telecom operators of the country to keep providing telecom facilities to the Worldcall.

Via The News