NEW DELHI: In what may be seen as some relief for telecom operators, the department of telecom (DoT) is set to shift from levying a blanket financial penalty (up to R50 crore ) for violations to a five-category, gradual system, with each category of violation carrying a different penalty amount starting from R1 lakh to R50 crore.
The move is aimed at removing the discretionary powers of the government while dealing with offences related to telecom licencing conditions.
In an internal memo, the department has batted for a five-category penal system for offences committed by operators. The violations have been categorised as warning (R1 lakh), minor (R 1 crore), moderate (R5 crore), major (R20 crore) and severe (R50 crore).
The DoT has also batted for gradation in the designated authority for handling the seriousness and value of the penalty amount. This move, according to it, will lead to reduction/avoidance of litigations. It will also help in streamlining the process, it said. “For example, the deputy director-general at DoT can be the authority to issue showcause notices indicating violations. Similarly, a member (technology) in the commission can issue order imposing penalty,” the memo said.
“The categorisation of various licence conditions, from warning to severe, will be finalised by the DoT with approval of the secretary for major category of licences such as CMTS, UASL, UL,” it said.
In making these recommendations, the DoT, however, ignored the suggestions made by Trai in 2012 where the regulator had batted for lowering the penalty amount from R50 crore to R10 crore and characterisation of offences into major and minor.
Once implemented, these guidelines will replace the current discretionary telecom licensing conditions whe-re the government can impose a financial penalty of up to R50 crore for violation of terms and conditions of the licence agreement by an operator.
“This scale of division will ensure that while the smaller violation comes into record and does not go unnoticed, any severe deviations are dealt with in a deserving manner so as to act as sufficient deterrent,” DoT said.
It also said that in addition to the penalties prescribed against the specific violations, the licensor will have the right to recover any unlawful gain made by the licensee and/or financial loss to the government due to violation of such clauses/conditions.
(Source: The Financial Express, March 6, 2014)