Sibal to DoT: Be scientific while imposing fine on telcos

Sibal to DoT: Be scientific while imposing fine on telcos

New Delhi: Telecom minister Kapil Sibal has asked the DoT to evolve guidelines to reduce the element of its discretion while deciding penalty for violation of licence conditions and make the process as scientific as possible.

As of now the Department of Telecom (DoT) has been levying maximum penalty of Rs50 crore for all cases of violations of license conditions.

The DoT should evolve guidelines to reduce the element of discretion and make the process of levying penalty “as scientific as possible," Sibal said in a letter to the DoT secretary R. Chandrasekhar.

While there is no absolute yardstick for determining the quantum of penalty, some guidelines need to be evolved, Sibal said.

“If mindlessly the maximum penalty is imposed in each particular case, it would send a wrong message to the industry and dampen the fragile environment. It would be needless litigation and delay in realization of penalty," the minister said.

It may be legal to impose the maximum penalty, but the fact that a penalty can be imposed up to Rs50 crore itself requires the DoT to analyze the nature of violation and impose penalty commensurate with its gravity, Sibal said, adding that not every violation should carry a penalty of Rs50 crore.

“I, therefore, request you (DoT secretary) to look at the issues raised by me, evolve guidelines wherever possible and bring an element of certainty in the system, without of course, in a way detracting from the duty of the Department to impose the maximum penalty where it is deserved," he said.

Further, when an officer of the DoT determines the extent of penalty to be imposed, reasons for imposition of the amount of penalty must be explained.

“The nature of the offence, its gravity and consequences must be factored while determining the quantum of penalty," the letter added.

Sibal is understood to have asked the DoT to submit guidelines in this regard by September this year.

Sibal’s move comes in the wake of controversy over levying of penalty in case of alleged violation of rural telephony by telecom operators.

A controversy had erupted recently in the case of Reliance Communications which had switched off their towers in some of the rural areas disrupting services for a brief period under government’s subsidized rural telephony scheme.

The motive of the licensee (operator) in violating a particular condition of the licence is also a relevant factor in determining the nature and extent of penalty, Sibal said.