HC restrains Centre from taking coercive steps against Airtel

Justice Shakdher also asked Airtel to provide to the DoT the information of customers and revenue received by it by providing intra circle roaming (ICR) service to them.

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday restrained the Centre from taking coercive steps against telecom major Bharti Airtel which has recently been served with a notice to stop providing 3G roaming services to its customers outside their licensed area.

"Department of Telecommunication (DoT) will not take any coercive action against the petitioner which will respond to the show cause notice (issued by DoT) within 60 days," Justice Rajiv Shakdher said.

The DoT, on September 28, issued notice to the telecom major asking it to stop providing intra circle roaming (ICR)facilities to its customers as it amounted to violation of the agreement with the telecom department.

The company has sought the setting aside of the notice saying that it amounted to "disconnecting the connected customers".

Disposing of the petition, Justice Shakdher, however, did not allow the plea of Additional Solicitor General Rajeeve Mehra that the telecom company, which lack 3G licenses in some circles, be restrained from providing services to new customers.

"The petitioner will have to provide details of new customers, who would be provided 3G services," the court said, adding that the DoT will adjudicate upon the issue after the telecom company replies to the show cause notice.

"What is the tearing hurry, I fail to understand. We have just given a notice and it is not that we are switching the services off," the ASG said while replying to the submissions of senior advocate A M Singhvi, the counsel for Airtel, that the operation of the DoT notice be stayed. PTI

Airtel moved the high court on October 1 against the DoT notice saying that "it adversely affects the interest of the customers and the subscribers who are benefiting from the 3G arrangements".

Besides Airtel, the DoT had issued notices to other service providers for entering into ICR arrangements among them for providing 3G facilities to customers beyond their licensed areas.

Lawyer Yakesh Anand, who had earlier filed a PIL, seeking an inquiry into the whole issue, on Wednesday sought his impleadment as a party to the present case. The court, which disposed of the plea of Airtel, rejected Anand's submission.

Justice Shakdher also asked Airtel to provide to the DoT the information of customers and revenue received by it by providing intra circle roaming (ICR) service to them.

The operators had entered into roaming agreements with others to offer 3G services such as video calling, mobile TV and multi-media gaming in areas where they did not have 3G spectrum.

During the hearing, Singhvi, counsel for Airtel, said that the DoT notice was contrary to interim orders passed by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) that had restrained it from taking coercive steps against telecom companies.

Earlier, the DoT had asked the operators to terminate their 3G roaming agreements calling it illegal.
The department had also said that the government was losing revenue because of these agreements.

"On Dec 23, 2011 at about 5 P.M., the DoT issued a communication instructing various telecom service providers, including the petitioner, to immediately stop providing the intra circle roaming service in all service area," the telecom firm said in its petition.