Supreme Court asks DoT not to take coercive steps against Airtel over 3G roaming pact

The Indian Supreme Court asked the government to refrain from taking any "coercive steps" against Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel, accused of illegally providing intra-circle roaming facilities in seven circles where it did not have the licences for the 3G spectrum.

The apex court also asked the parties to maintain status quo on the issue till the matter is heard on April 11.

"Let the matter be listed on April 11. Till then, the parties are directed to maintain status quo. In the meantime, Department of Telecom (DoT) will not take any coercive steps," a bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Vikramajit Sen said.

The apex court was hearing the petition filed by Bharti Airtel challenging the Delhi High Court's order giving its nod to the Centre's decision holding the 3G roaming pact of the telecom major as illegal.

The high court's division bench passed the order on a plea by Reliance Communications Ltd challenging the single judge's order saying it has been incurring huge losses for the 3G on a daily basis and Bharti has been using it free of cost.

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 a penalty of Rs. 350 crore (Rs. 50 crore per circle) for allegedly violating the licence terms and conditions.

The telecom major has challenged the decision of the division bench of the high court which had set aside its single judge's March 18 order staying the DoT notification.

Senior advocate Abhishekh Singhvi, appearing for Airtel, said the division bench of the high court was wrong in entertaining the plea of Reliance as it was not a party before the single judge.

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