HC lifts stay on DoT ban on Bharti Airtel's 3G roaming pact

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.

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.

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