Delhi High Court on Monday issued contempt notices against telecom major Idea Cellular Ltd and its chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla for allegedly disobeying its earlier order by providing 3G services to new customers in circles where it lacks the requisite licences.
Justice Rajiv Shakdhar asked the telecom company and five others including Birla to file their responses within four weeks and posted the matter for further hearing on August 5.
Besides the telecom company and its chairman, the court also issued notices to Himanshu Kapania, Managing Director of ICL, Akshya Moondra, Chief Financial Officer of the firm, P Lakshminarayana and Pankaj Kapdeo, Company Secretaries of ICL.
The department of telecommunications had earlier moved the court seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the telecom firm and its office bearers for ‘wilful and deliberate’ disobedience of a judicial order passed on April 12 by which ICL was restrained from providing 3G services to its new customers.
DoT, in its contempt plea, had said that instead of complying with the orders passed by this court, the petitioner (Idea Cellular) had filed an additional affidavit stating that it has 'additionally decided' to provide 3G services to those existing customers who meet the criteria.
There is no criteria provided by this court, it had said.
"The order of April 12 is clear and has to be obeyed in its entirely.
"The petitioner, under the garb of so-called criteria, has modified the condition imposed by this court on April 12. . . Therefore, it amounts to contempt of the said order," it had said.
Earlier, in pursuance of a Supreme Court order on a plea moved by Bharti Airtel, the high court had restrained DoT from taking any ‘coercive steps’ against Vodafone and Idea Cellular which were asked to pay penalty of Rs 550 crore (Rs 5.5 billion) and Rs 300 crore (Rs 3 billion) respectively for providing 3G facilities outside their circles without the requisite licences.
The court had, however, put a condition on the telecom majors, including Idea Cellular, that they will not provide 3G services to new customers in the circles for which they lacked licences.
Besides initiation of contempt proceedings, DoT has also sought dismissal of Idea Cellular's plea against its notice demanding Rs 300 crore as penalty for providing 3G services in circles including Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, the north east, Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Delhi.
In addition to Idea Cellular, Vodafone had also moved the high court against a penalty of Rs 550 crore (Rs 5.5 billion) imposed on it by DoT for providing 3G services outside their licenced circles.
Both the telecom firms got the relief from the court which followed the apex court order on a similar plea of Bharti Airtel.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre not to take any coercive step against Bharti Cellular and asked the telecom company not to extend its roaming services to new customers in seven circles where it does not have licences for 3G spectrum.
Bharti Cellular Ltd had moved the apex court after the division bench of the high court vacated its stay on the operation of a DoT notice against BCL for providing 3G services outside its licenced circles.
DoT had, in separate notices, asked all the three telecom firms to pay the penalties and stop offering 3G mobile phone services in circles where they did not win spectrum in the 2010 auction of the radio waves.