Update: The Delhi High Court has granted a stay on the DoT order that asked telcos to stop 3G ICR arrangements, reports The Economic Times. The court asked Airtel to reply to the show cause notice issued by DoT, within 60 days and has sought details related to the revenue and customers that it gained from the ICR arrangements and about the TDSAT case.

Earlier: Following the Department of Telecom’s order directing Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, to stop 3G intra- circle roaming agreements, Bharti Airtel has reportedly moved the Delhi High Court challenging the DoT notice, reports PTI (via Zee News).

According to the report, Bharti Airtel has said that the DoT order is against public interest as it adversely affected the interest of the customers and subscribers who benefit from the 3G arrangements, and that it violates Article 14 (equality before law) ‘as it is arbitrary, has no rational basis, is illogical and contrary to the contract between the parties’

“TDSAT passed split verdict and resultantly the matter is pending before the court and it has not been disposed of. Thus the interim order passed by TDSAT and confirmed by this court (the Delhi High Court in February 2012) continues to remain in force and the DoT cannot take any step to restrain the petitioner from acting upon the 3G ICR arrangements,” said Airtel in its petition.

Airtel’s plea also mentions that it had successfully bid during the 3G spectrum auction and made significant investments, and the DoT order violates Airtel’s rights under ‘Article 19 (1)(g) of the Indian Constitution’, and that the DoT had taken the decision in haste. The petition also cites the split verdict of the TDSAT, saying that the interim decision was still valid as the matter was still pending in TDSAT.

In August, the Law Ministry had given its nod to the Department of Telecom for taking action against telcos that have been offering 3G services in service areas where they were not allotted 3G spectrum via Intra-circle roaming agreements. Additional Solicitor General’s in his response to a DoT query, had said that the DoT had the right to claim the revenue earned by companies who did not have ‘any authorisation, permission or license from the DoT’ to run 3G services based on’the doctrine of unjust enrichment’, and that DoT also had the mandate to cancel their permits.

Telecom operators, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Airtel use 3G Intra-circle roaming pacts to offer 3G services in areas where they don’t have a 3G license. The DoT and the operators have been at loggerheads on the issue, with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) delivering a split-verdict on the dispute, in July, as the two-member judge bench comprising of the chairman Justice S B Sinha and member P K Rastogi, reached different conclusions on whether these pacts could be allowed or not. While Sinha approved the telecom operators’ appeal against DoT’s directive to stop intra-circle 3G roaming stating that DoT had not followed proper process and had not provided appropriate time for telcos to respond with their views, asking DoT to restart this process and provide enough time for operators to respond to DoT’s directive,  Rastogi had dismissed the telcos’ appeal stating that operators cannot offer 3G services in the country when they only have 2G licenses.

Do read our take on the 3G Intra-Circle Roaming dispute.

Related:
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