Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has set aside Rs 650 crore penalty on Airtel and Rs 100 crore fine on Vodafone imposed by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for offering the SLD services violating license norms that allows roaming users to use local network without paying STD and roaming charges.
A year ago, DoT had slapped a notice of Rs 50 crore for 13 circles each on Airtel and Vodafone and they charged the penalty of Rs 50 Crores for 3 circles together with Mumbai and Delhi for offering unauthorized SLD (Subscriber Local Dialing) services in two circles between 2003 and 2005.
"We, accordingly, set aside the impugned orders of penalty/demand notices in all the three cases. In the result all the petitions are allowed with costs quantified at Rs 25,000 for each of the petitions," said Justice Aftab Alam, TDSAT
Further, TDSAT said that there was no loss to BSNL due to these services by Airtel and Vodafone.
Subscribers gained from violation
The call from Mumbai to the Delhi number is a long-distance or STD call but with SLD, the subscriber could save on STD charges. Though the service provided by Airtel offered immense advantage to subscribers, DoT issued a notice to the operator saying that it violated the national routing plan, number plan and without authorisation bypassed national long distance traffic. On June 20, 2003, the department had asked Airtel to stop the service. But DoT later found out that the service was provided as SLD till 2005. DoT had accentuated that the national routing and numbering plan has been disobeyed by such type of service in an unauthorised fashion and avoided the national long distance traffic.
The regulator had warned Vodafone to stop these unauthorised services on June 20, 2003 but the company had continued the services stating optimal routing and direct connect till 2005. From the PMO reference in 2005, this was brought to the notice of DoT. The Department of Telecom imposed the demand notice on the service provider.