Home / Politics / Policy /  SC restricts Bharti Airtel from adding new 3G customers in some zones

New Delhi: The Supreme Court barred Bharti Airtel Ltd from acquiring new customers for its 3G services in the seven circles where it did not win the necessary spectrum in the 2010 auction until 9 May, when the apex court will hear the case again.

The telco is, however, allowed to continue serving existing customers in the disputed circles, including Haryana, Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh east, Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The ruling comes after the department of telecommunications (DoT) on 15 March sent notices asking Bharti to stop offering the 3G services in the circles and seeking 350 crore in penalties.

The company said it has always complied with the rules that prevailed at the time of the auction of the 3G spectrum and that any move to stop such service will hurt customers.

Bharti was offering the services along with Vodafone India Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd through roaming agreements signed in July 2011. DoT found these pacts illegal and also sent notices to the other telcos.

Bharti had contested the notice in the Delhi high court, which stayed any coercive action by the DoT on 18 March until the court heard the case. On 4 April, the stay was vacated by a division bench of the high court on a plea by Reliance Communications Ltd, which said the roaming pacts were causing significant loss in revenue. This led Bharti to approach the Supreme Court, which heard the case on Thursday.

On Thursday, the apex court bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and justice Vikramajit Sen also sent notices to other telcos who have 3G spectrum and the government asking them to submit their views on the subject in a month’s time.

On 8 April, the top court had asked the government to refrain from taking any “coercive steps" against Bharti.

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