Jio demands apology from COAI boss

By Kiran Rathee , Business Standard, New Delhi | In Digital | September 29, 2016
Threatens legal route if telecom lobby doesn't act against Mathews for 'back-door operator' barb.

Reliance Jio has sought an apology from and action against Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director General Rajan S Mathews for reportedly calling it a "back-door operator".

"We have already put Rajan S Mathews on notice, demanding an apology, with a copy to COAI seeking appropriate action," said Jio on Wednesday. "Should they not act upon it, we will pursue legal recourse."

In a letter on September 23, new entrant Jio had sought an overhaul of rules and regulations of COAI and alleged that the current norms were skewed in favour of incumbent operators. In response, Mathews had reportedly called Jio a "back-door operator" that acquired a licence through a front entity.

"COAI and Rajan S Mathews are fully aware that these allegations were part of a public interest litigation filed before... the Supreme Court... and all of the said allegations have been duly adjudicated upon and rejected," said Jio.

It added: "The press statement [of Mathews]... is surreptitious, defamatory, and an act of contempt of the orders of the Supreme Court of India and devoid of any merit."

The company also countered Mathews' claim that the issues raised by Jio were bilateral and should have been addressed by the association. "He [Mathews] himself has raised several bilateral issues in external forums in the last few months without ever discussing these within the association," it said.

Jio also alleged that all forums within the association are controlled by the incumbent dominant operators owing to their disproportionate voting rights.

"It is also a known fact that Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications have left COAI in the past because of such biases."

Reacting to Jio's statements, COAI said it found the allegations to be without merit. "They are intended to bring disrepute to the association. We remain committed towards advancing the industry position, and our members and the consumers remain at the heart of everything we do," COAI said.

Jio said while it was aware of COAI's regulations at the time of becoming a member, it would not be restrained from raising its genuine and fair concerns, especially when the incumbent dominant operators were colluding to use the association's regulations against it to promote their anti-competitive activities.