Paving the way for a combined Rs3,050 crore penalty on telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, the attorney general of India is learnt to have opined that the Department of Telecommunications has the power to impose penalty on grounds of poor service.
"AG has opined that DoT can impose penalty on telecom operators for violating quality of service rules," a source told PTI.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had recommended imposing Rs1,050 crore penalty each on Airtel and Vodafone and Rs950 crore on Idea for violating quality of service rules.
Trai, in its recommendation to DoT, said it has found the trio non-compliant with licence conditions and service quality norms, given the high rate of call failures and congestion at interconnect points for Reliance Jio.
Following Trai's recommendation, the Telecom Department sought AG's opinion on the matter last week, sources pointed out.
The DoT was awaiting AG's opinion before proceeding on the penalty suggestion of Trai.
While giving its recommendation to DoT, Trai had noted that denial of interconnection by the three operators to Reliance Jio "appears to be with the ulterior motive to stifle competition and is anti-consumer".
The regulator had, in fact, stopped short of recommending cancellation of their telecom licences, saying it may lead to "significant consumer inconvenience".
The recommendation came on a complaint by Reliance Jio that over 75 per cent of calls on its network were failing as incumbents were not giving sufficient points of interconnect to help complete calls.