India's top court allows Bharti, Vodafone, Idea 3G pacts until April 11

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Telecom firms Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone Group Plc's local unit and Idea Cellular can maintain until April 11 pacts allowing them to offer 3G services outside their licensed zones, India's supreme court ruled on Monday.

The telecommunications ministry had asked Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular to end the pacts, which the government says are illegal. It also imposed penalties on the companies.

The court will hear the case again on April 11. The dispute over the 3G pacts is one of several regulatory challenges hurting carriers in the world's second-biggest mobile phone market.

(Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty, Writing by Devidutta Tripathy)