New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked Bharti Airtel and Cellular Operations Association of India (COAI) to approach the apex consumer forum against the state commission's order imposing Rs 50 lakh penalty jointly on them for pesky calls on consumers.

The Rs 50 lakh penalty was stayed in January 2010 by the Delhi High Court, which was set aside by the Apex Court on the ground that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal against the State Consumer Commission order.

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhyaya said the remedy vested with the (NCDRC) National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission under the Consumer Protection
Act.

The Apex Court had earlier issued notices to telecom operator Bharti Airtel, COAI and ICICI bank and American Express over unsolicited calls to mobile phones.

The apex court's direction came on a petition filed by one Nivedita Sharama seeking a stay of the Delhi High Court order which had been set aside.

She submitted unsolicited commercial communication (UCC), which includes short message service (SMS) as well as calls, is a growing menace to mobile phone users.

The High Court had said the Consumer Commission overstepped its powers by imposing the penalties. However, the High Court had said telcos should follow the "Do Not Call Registry" as per Trai's regulations.

Challenging it, Sharma said the High Court order was "manifestly illegal, passed without due application of mind and law in facts and circumstances".

"The High Court has failed to give any attention to the submission of the complainant that she and other subscribers still get UCC and SMS and despite having followed the prescribed procedure of making complaint, many times no action has been taken against either the callers or the service providers," submitted Sharma.

She further contended the High Court should not have set aside the Commission's order which had directed COAI to ask its members to immediately withdraw the list of subscribers and their mobile numbers provided by them to agencies, banks, and financial institutions.

"The High Court failed the aspirations and hopes of millions who are still getting these calls and, instead of contributing to further improving the situation, has by its narrow and limited understanding of the law and equity brought back the dark practices," she said.

(Agencies)