Government is looking at taking away penalising powers from Department of Telecom where officials generally take recourse to imposing the maximum penalty of Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million) on service providers permissible under licences for even minor violation, and give this authority to sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
DoT officials, under fear of allegation of their conniving with telecom operators for lowering penalty, directly impose the maximum penalty that can be levied on service providers.
The maximum penalty on telecom service provider can go up to Rs 50 crore and Rs 500,000 in case of radiation rules violation.
"It has been around two to two and half years about excessive penalty that department has been imposing on operators.
"I have been wanting to change their mindset but unfortunately it hasn't changed. “May be the best way forward is to go give that power to Trai," Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said on sidelines of a Confederation of Indian Industries event.
The minister added that it is work in progress and government is yet to take a final call on it.
Under the new licensing regime in works, Trai has suggested imposing a penalty of up to Rs 10 crore (Rs 100 million) for major violation and up to Rs 25 lakh (Rs 2.5 million) for minor violation.
According to industry estimates, telecom service providers are facing penalty to the tune of Rs 6,500 crore (Rs 65 billion). Of this, Rs 1,900 crore (Rs 19 billion) has been imposed on industry on EMF (radiation) matter where 1.2 per cent of penalty estimated are for actual infringement of norms and 64 per cent for late submission of certificates and issues like improper placing of signages.
Telecom Secretary M F Farooqui said, "I think these are issues which we need to address immediately and see if we can have review mechanism within government.
"At least in future we do not have situation where there is difference in interpretation leading to litigation."
The secretary admitted that there is some times lack of uniformity on the penalties levied, specially in cases of radiation.
"There is need to have some proportionality so that penalty levied in some way is related to seriousness of the violation of the licence condition and not seen by anyone as means to raise revenue," Farooqui said.