The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has reserved order on operators' plea to stay the penalty imposed on them by the government for failing to complete the directive to reverify prepaid connections in Assam and North East service areas.
The TDSAT bench, headed by its Chairman Justice SB Sinha, reserved the order on 23 January 2012.
Operators had sought stay on the penalty imposed by the DoT's Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring (TERM) cell.
Dishnet Wireless, Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular also questioned Department of Telecommunications' (DoT) circular to reverify their existing prepaid connections.
Earlier, GSM industry lobby group Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had approached TDSAT on the issue. However, on January 13 the tribunal asked the operators to file individual petitions as well.
COAI said the government circular for re-verification of subscribers was prepared "without any application of mind" and "in a totally casual manner".
According to them, DoT has simply extended the guidelines of J&K service area to Assam and North East.
COAI has said that as per the circular issued last year by the DoT, certificates by Village Panchayat Head or its equivalent authority as well as caste and domicile certificates with photographs provided by state governments, were not treated as ID proof. Moreover, Voters Identity Cards issued before 2008 were also kept outside the list.
The DoT move came in view of apprehensions raised by the security establishment which said that militants were using pre-paid connections for subversive activities as they were made available easily.
The telecom companies fear that it may result in loss of a huge chunk of their 20 million-odd customer base in the Northeastern region.
"It is submitted that while extending such guidelines DoT failed to notice that these guidelines had been issued keeping the peculiar conditions applicable only to J&K in mind. They could not therefore, without proper modification, be applied in case of Assam and North East Service Areas," said COAI.