New Delhi:  In a fresh tussle, the DoT has requested the TDSAT to give it copies of agreements on 3G roaming among private operators, a move opposed by them fearing leakage of commercial information to rivals.

The operators suspect that their roaming agreements which consist of commercial negotiations would be leaked from the Department of Telecom (DoT) and would reach rivals.

The information is getting leaked like a sea. It would be highly unfair for operators. "The moment it is leaked, it would reach our rival operators," said the counsel appearing for telecom firms.

 Senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan appearing for one of the telecom operators asked the tribunal to direct DoT to file an application and they would file a proper reply on this issue.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) said it would decide on this issue on January 17 only after considering the DoT's plea questioning its jurisdiction to decide on 3G roaming issue.

Meanwhile, TDSAT adjourned today's scheduled hearing to January 17 on the plea of DoT challenging its jurisdiction to decide the 3G roaming issue after the government wanted to file rejoinder over the reply submitted by operators.

In their reply, operators Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Aircel and Tata Tele had termed DoT's move as "desperate attempt to avoid adjudication" on the 3G dispute.

During the proceedings today operators also opposed the oral assurance given by DoT officials that confidentiality of their agreement would be maintained and said "it would be highly unfair to them".

"If they want a copy, let them file a proper application and then we would file our objection," said Vaidyanathan.

However, DoT's counsel said that as per their license conditions, operators are supposed to handover their roaming agreement and they have already handed it to sectoral regulator TRAI.

"What is the difficulty in giving it to us (DoT). We are a licensor and not a third party in this. They (operators) have already given it to the TRAI," said DoT's counsel Maneesha Dhir, adding that it was only for the purpose of preparing a consolidated reply for the main petition.

She assured the confidentiality would be maintained and sensitive information would not be given under the RTI Act.

Earlier on January 3, operators had submitted their agreement to the TDSAT in sealed covers and the tribunal had permitted the government to inspect the agreement through their counsels.

However, DoT submitted that agreements were "voluminous and technical" and requested TDSAT for proper copies of the agreement.

Passing an order on December 24, the tribunal had directed the DoT not to take any coercive action against the telecom operators.

A day prior to that the government had asked five telecom operators to stop their inter circle roaming on 3G bandwidth within 24 hours and it was challenged by Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Aircel and Tata Tele before TDSAT.

(Agencies)