SC restrains Airtel from providing 3G roaming to new customers

New Delhi: Bharti Airtel was on Thursday restrained by the Supreme Court from providing 3G roaming services to new customers in seven circles where it does not have license to do so.

The apex court also said that no coercive steps will be taken on the issue of penalty raised against Airtel for allegedly illegally providing 3G services.

The seven circles where Airtel does not have license to provide 3G services are Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh East and Kerala.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Vikramajit Sen issued notices to the Centre and Reliance Communications Ltd and sought their response within two weeks on the petition filed by Bharti Airtel challenging a Delhi High Court order giving its nod to DoT's decision to hold the 3G roaming pact of the telecom major as illegal.

The apex court said thereafter the respondents will file rejoinder within two weeks and posted the matter for hearing on May 9.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had on March 15 issued a notification restraining Bharti from providing 3G intra-circle roaming facilities in seven circles where it did not have the spectrum and also levied penalty of Rs 350 crore (Rs 50 crore per circle) for allegedly violating the licence terms and conditions.

On March 18, a single-judge bench of the high court had stayed the operation of the notification.

However, on a plea filed by Reliance, a division bench of the high court on April 4 had set aside the single judge's order.

The telecom major has challenged the decision of the division bench of the high court. .