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Supreme Court bars Airtel from providing 3G services to new customers in seven circles

The Supreme Court has banned Bharti Airtel from providing 3G roaming services to new customers in seven circles – Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh East and Kerala – where the operator has been providing 3G services on the basis of intra-circle roaming pacts with Idea Cellular and Vodafone. The court is also been reported to have said that there will be no coercive steps taken on the Rs 350 crore penalty slashed by DoT against Airtel. It has ordered the operator along with the accomplices to appear for next hearing on May 9.

According to reports, the appellate comprising of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Vikramajit Sen have issued notices to the Centre and Reliance Communications to get their responses on the Airtel’s petition against Delhi High Court’s order that permitted DoT to go ahead with the penalty as well as banning 3G roaming pact. These have been given time of two weeks to respond on the case. After this, Airtel and other operators will be asked to give their side of responses on the case. The next hearing on the same has been scheduled on May 9.

Also, according to reports, though Airtel is been ordered not to add new 3G subscribers in these seven circles, it may continue providing 3G services to existing subscribers.

On March 15, DoT issued a notice to Bharti Airtel to stop providing 3G intra-circle roaming services in seven circles where it was offering services without holding the spectrum. Airtel was also asked to pay a penalty of Rs 350 crore for the same. Airtel had then applied to the High Court, which had stayed the order but later vacated it on a plea filed by Reliance over the alleged violation of 3G licenses terms and conditions by Airtel. However, the operator moved to Supreme Court and filed a petition against the orders by Delhi High Court. It was on April 8 that the apex court had asked the government to not to take any action against the operator till its hearing on April 11.