DoT reopens case after ten years, plans to issue Bharti USD116m fine

30 May 2013

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest cellco by subscribers, may face fines of up to INR6.5 billion (USD116 million) in relation to violation of national roaming norms dating back to 2003-2005, the Times of India reports. In June 2003 the Department of Telecomunications (DoT) instructed Bharti to cease offering subscriber local dialling (SLD), which allowed customers in one circle to make calls to another at local rates, on the basis that it violated national routing and numbering plans and bypassed national long distance traffic without authorisation. It later emerged that Bharti had continued with the service for a further two years, until 2005, although no penalty was issued and the matter was not pursued at the time. The revival of the case after lying dormant for ten years was spurred by the involvement of anti-corruption body the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), with DoT officials reportedly keen to resolve the case lest the CVC or courts take action against the watchdog for its inactivity. An internal DoT note was quoted by the paper as saying: ‘As all these cases are being monitored/litigated at the highest level in government/judiciary, any kind of further delay may not be appreciated.’ DoT committee has recommended the maximum penalty of INR500 million for each of the 13 circles in which the violations took place.