New Delhi: The Supreme Court has upheld the Telecom Department’s decision to collect an amount of Rs 4.50 lakh from the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd for making international "sex talk calls".
A Bench of Justices R.V. Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari rejected the argument of the federation’s managing director that the calls were not made either by him or his family members but the huge bill was on account of tampering by a third party.
The apex court upheld the contention of the department that the huge billing was on account of a large number of international calls known as ‘party calls’ or ‘sex talk calls’.
The Bench also chided the Gujarat High Court for unnecessarily directing the department to reduce the bill despite the fact that the arbitrator appointed in the case had concurred with the findings of the Telecom authorities.
A telephone installed in Anand Town at the residence of the managing director was billed for Rs. 454,652 for the bimonthly period of January 16, 1996 to March 15, 1996. The average monthly bill according to the MD was only Rs 8,500.
After the federation refused to pay the bill, the telephone was disconnected on May 29, 1996 by the department.
An arbitrator appointed at the instance of the Gujarat High Court, upheld the huge bill after taking the view that the calls originated from the same number and there was no evidence to suggest that there was tampering by a third party.
However, a single judge of the High Court quashed the bill after the department did not agree to his suggestion for reducing the bill. A Division Bench upheld the single judge’s order following which the Telecom department appealed to the apex court.
"The learned Single Judge proceeded on the basis that the attitude of the department was adamant and it was indulging in unnecessary litigation. The department was simply pursuing a legitimate claim. The matter had been decided by a statutory Arbitrator. Therefore if the department decided not to give up or reduce its claim that cannot be held against the department. The order shows that the learned Single Judge had tried virtually to force the department to agree for suggestions, which obviously the officers and the counsel for the department could not agree. Such attitude on the part of the High Court requires to be discouraged. Unfortunately the division bench did not examine any of these aspects and merely affirmed the decision of the learned Single Judge,” Justice Raveendran writing the judgement observed.