The Telegraph
Friday , March 28 , 2014
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Tweak in telecom fine norms

New Delhi, March 27: The Telecom Commission today approved a graded penalty system for operators with fines ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 50 crore, but deferred its decision on mobile number portability.

The penalties will range from Rs 1 lakh as a warning to Rs 50 crore for severe violation of licence conditions, M.F. Farooqui, chairman of the Telecom Commission and secretary of the department of telecom (DoT), told reporters.

The violations have been categorised according to the seriousness of the crime — a fine of Rs 1 lakh for a warning, Rs 1 crore for a minor breach, Rs 5 crore for moderate, Rs 20 crore for major and Rs 50 crore for severe offences.

The revised penalty scheme will save operators from being fined a maximum of Rs 50 crore even for minor violations.

As part of the new penalty system, factors such as the seriousness of the violation and its impact on the industry, the policy environment, the government exchequer and customer and national security will be taken into account while deciding the penalty.

The DoT panel has also put in place a streamlined process for handing out the penalty, where a showcause notice will be issued first followed by a penalty order.

The DoT secretary would serve as an appellate authority and the minister would serve as the reviewing authority.

While the DoT has so far served around Rs 7,000 crore in penalty notices, much of these are under litigation.

Number portability

The much-awaited mobile number portability, however, has been deferred and will be decided when the next government assumes office.

The move would have helped subscribers retain their mobile numbers even if they shift to another state and switch to another telecom service provider. Current rules allows a person to retain the same mobile number only if one changes the service provider within the state or a telecom circle.

The approval to number portability would have been seen as violation of the model code of conduct.