April 5, 2013 1:08:14 am
In an order that is likely to affect 3G roaming services offered by telecom major Bharti Airtel,the Delhi High court has lifted a stay order on the execution of a Central government directive that stopped Airtel from providing 3G roaming services in seven circles for which it did not possess spectrum licences.
Acting on a petition filed by Reliance Communications,the Delhi High Court bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice VK Jain set aside an order passed by Justice Rajiv Shakdhar on March 18,which had allowed Airtel to continue providing 3G roaming services in Haryana,Maharashtra,Eastern UP,Kolkata,Gujarat,Kerala and Madhya Pradesh circles,through agreements with other service providers to provide intra-circle roaming facilities.
While the full judgement of the court has not been delivered as yet,the court in the oral order pronounced in open court had said that it was setting aside the single bench order of March 18.
The exact parameters of the judgement,and the likely effect on Bharti Airtel will only become known after the full judgement is released by the Delhi High court,which is likely to come by Monday.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had issued a notification on March 15 restraining Bharti Airtel from providing 3G intra-circle roaming facilities in seven circles where it did not have the spectrum and also levied a penalty of Rs 350 crore (Rs 50 crore per circle) for violating the licence terms and conditions.
The telecom company had been asked to comply with the directions by March 18. Airtel had,however,approached the High Court,which in its single bench order had stayed the execution of the DoT order,relieving Airtel from having to stop its operations or pay the penalty.
Reliance Communications,which holds the 3G licences for these seven areas,filed a writ petition against Justice Shakdhars stay order,alleging that it had paid thousands of crores for the 3G spectrum and Bharti is using it for free in as many as seven circles,therefore,disrupting the level playing field. If this is allowed,then there is no requirement for any licensee to participate and purchase 3G spectrum in auction. This defeats the purpose of auction.
Reliance in its plea had asked the court to declare and hold 3G intra-circle roaming agreements entered into between Bharti and other service providers as illegal and in violation of Articles 14,19 and 21 of the Constitution and provisions of the Indian telegraph Act and Indian Wireless Act.
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