New Delhi: Bharti Airtel Ltd, India’s largest mobile phone service provider, said it was shocked and disappointed to receive a demand notice of Rs.650 crore from the telecom department and has been left with no option but to challenge this in a court of law.
The penalty is “devoid of any merit and has no justification both on facts and in law”, the company said in a statement on Thursday. The department has imposed the penalty on Bharti Airtel in a case related to the company offering subscriber local dialling between 2002 and 2005.
Subscriber local dialling refers to a service where calls received by a user outside the home service area are treated as local calls.
The telecom department said the service violates licence conditions. An internal committee of the department of telecommunications (DoT) had alleged that Bharti Airtel had continued to route national and international calls as local calls under the subscriber dialling scheme till 2005 despite being told to stop the practice in 2003. This caused losses to the government exchequer and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, it said.
Bharti Airtel said the telecom regulator had found the “service to be customer-friendly and in compliance of the licence conditions.”
The total revenue the service had generated for Bharti Airtel was a few lakhs of rupees, the company said. “Yet strangely, without as much as giving us a proper hearing, DoT has after eight years issued a demand notice of Rs.650 crore in complete disregard of the natural process of justice. We wish DoT was mindful of the damage such meritless demands have on investor sentiment and the frustration such actions cause to the companies engaged in vital infrastructure.”