DoT set to notify new penalty norms for telcos within a month
The Department of Telecom is expected to notify new penalty norms within a month that may end the practice of levying maximum penalty of Rs 50 crore for even minor mistakes.
"We are trying to get it notified soon...may be within a month," a senior DoT official said when asked about the status of the proposed norms.
Inter-ministerial panel Telecom Commission in March had approved a new penalty scheme, which has five slabs ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 50 crore, for violation of norms by mobile operators but are yet to be notified. Under the proposed scheme of penalty, fines start with a warning that invite a penalty of Rs 1 lakh for minor violation of norms and move up, in line with severity, at Rs 1 crore, Rs 5 crore, Rs 20 crore and Rs 50 crore. In the wake of telecom scam, due to apprehensions of having to face allegations of favouring telecom operators, DoT officials had started imposing the maximum penalty of Rs 50 crore even for minor mistakes. Early this month, the department was pulled up by telecom tribunal TDSAT which trashed Rs 650 crore penalty on Bharti Airtel and Rs 100 crore on Vodafone in a roaming case.
Airtel claimed to have earned Rs 8.6 lakh and Vodafone claimed to have earned Rs 65 lakh from the roaming service on which the fines were imposed.
The tribunal in the judgement said: "We are constrained to observe that the DoT must learn that imposition of penalty is not a means for generation of revenue and to meet the financial targets and we regret to say that such orders can only be passed by someone who, safe in anonymity, feels secure from any accountability."
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in April 2012 had recommended classifying penalty in two categories — minor and major. It had suggested imposition of a maximum penalty of up to Rs 25 lakh in case of minor violation and up to Rs 10 crore for a major violation.