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``Rs. 350-crore loss due to illegal routing of calls''

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, DEC. 1. Over the past three years, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has caused the maximum loss to the Central Exchequer, among the more than 140 companies that allegedly routed international calls illegally through local lines, the Lok Sabha was told today.

Of the 204 cases detected so far since the first raid in 1998, the approximate notional loss has been estimated at Rs. 350 crores, the Communications and Information Technology Minister, Dayanidhi Maran, said in written replies to several questions on the issue.

The Government has imposed a penalty of Rs. 150 crores on RIL for violating the licence agreements and has asked the company to explain the charges. In addition, RIL has paid Rs. 100 crores as penalty to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Rs. 67 crores to Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) against a total of Rs. 600 crores demanded by the two companies. The cases are presently sub-judice.

License violations

Tabling the names of companies charged with illegally routing international calls as local calls, Mr. Maran said a majority of them misused VSAT (very small aperture terminal), Internet and ISDN connectivity. In addition, the Government has charged 16 licensed service providers with violating licence conditions. Besides RIL, most of the other companies in this category are Internet service providers.

India is also facing the problem of international long distance (ILD) calls being bypassed from India to Nepal. MTNL's subsidiary in Nepal, United Telecom Limited (UTL), has been asked to generate decoy calls and identify illegal set-ups in Nepal. UTL has already taken up the matter with the Nepal telecom authorities, he said.

Reliance case

Mr. Maran said BSNL had detected that RIL was handling international traffic at locations meant for domestic calls. BSNL issued 512 notices for making payment of over Rs. 250 crores. RIL filed an appeal in the Delhi High Court, which directed the company to pay Rs. 40 crores in addition to the Rs. 60 crores already paid to BSNL. BSNL has filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court against the Delhi HC order for maintaining status quo for disconnection of points of interconnect (PoI).

The Government has asked BSNL to take special care of passwords, routing management in exchanges and monitoring traffic at PoI with private companies. The Minister said in the case of illegal calls delivered at PoI with private companies, interconnect agreements have provisions like disconnection of PoIs and penal charging.

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