The Madras High Court Thursday issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government on a petition moved by BSNL challenging a circular demanding annual "track rent" from the public sector firm for laying optical fibre cables along public roads. Admitting the plea, Justice R Mahadevan directed the Commissioner of Land Administration and the Revenue Department to file their reply by two weeks.
Moving the plea on behalf of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), its deputy general manager at Erode submitted that BSNL was a central government enterprise and 100 per cent equity share of the company was held by the Union government.
BSNL is also defined as 'state' within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution, he submitted.
BSNL in Erode district alone is controlling over 120 telephone exchanges.
"To fulfil the obligations of the Centre to develop telecom facility in rural areas under the new telecom policy, BSNL has already laid optical fibre cables (OFC) in public ways after duly paying restoration charges prescribed by the local administration.
"In Erode district alone such underground OFC have been laid for 2,730 km during the past 20 years," he said.
On March 28, 2018, the local administration issued a circular demanding annual "track rent" charges from BSNL and all other private telecom companies based on government orders dated February 12, 2001 and March 23, 2013.
Claiming that BSNL cannot be equated with other private telecom operators, the petitioner submitted that the orders were passed with the sole aim of collecting some revenue from private operators and not from a public enterprise.
The petitioner also wanted to call for the records of the circular and sought its quashing.