The Delhi High Court today set aside its single judge order which allowed Bharti Airtel,one of the largest telecom operators,to continue providing 3G intra-circle roaming facilities with other service providers,thereby lifting the ban – Reliance Communications had made a plea on this issue.
A division bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice V K Jain set aside the single judge’s order that stayed the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) March 15 notification restraining Bharti from providing 3G intra-circle roaming facilities.
DoT had asked the mobile company to stop intra-circle 3G roaming 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 bench passed the order on a plea by Reliance Communications Ltd challenging the single judge’s March 18 order saying it has been incurring huge losses for the 3G on daily basis and Bharti has been using it free of cost.
The bench allowed Reliance’s plea to be impleaded as a party in the case filed by Bharti before the single judge. However,a detailed order is yet to come.
Reliance in its plea said,”declare and hold 3G intra-circle roaming agreements entered into between Bharti and other service providers as illegal and in violation of Article 14,19 and 21 of the Constitution.”
“It has 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,” the plea also said.
Reliance said it was not made a party by Bharti in its plea before the single judge despite the fact that Reliance is directly effected by the relief sought by it.
“Appellant (Reliance) is incurring huge loss on a daily basis in as much as the Bharti continues to add subscribers and continues to unlawfully and unjustifiably reduce the market for providing 3G services for appellant in circles where it does not even have the mandatory licensee to provide the 3G service,” the Reliance plea claimed.
Earlier,the Telecom ministry had said such pacts were illegal and ordered Bharti to pay a penalty of Rs 350 crore.
The order was issued to the mobile service provider after the company had submitted its stand on the subject to a DoT-constituted committee on the matter as per the direction of the Delhi High Court in October 2012.