Airtel challenge against DoT’s demand of Rs 1,400 Cr

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) heard on Thursday Airtel’s challenge against DoT’s demand of approximately Rs 1,400 crore raised in terms of the AGR Judgement dated September 1, 2020 passed by the Supreme Court.

This demand arises from past dues payable by Videocon for the whole of the spectrum allocated to it, which in its entirety was subsequently transferred to Airtel in terms of Spectrum Trading Guidelines dated October 12, 2015.

Supreme Court in its judgement September 1,2020 (“AGR Judgement”) had categorically held that, where the entire spectrum is transferred by one telecom service provider to another telecom service provider in terms of Spectrum Trading Guidelines, any past liability pertaining to the spectrum transferred will pass on to the buyer.

This finding came to be passed by the Supreme Court while considering the details of spectrum transferred by Videocon to Airtel.

The liability of Airtel in this regard has already been upheld by the Supreme Court.

Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s AGR Judgement, TDSAT in its orders dated September 16, 2021 stayed the demand and also directed DoT not to take any coercive steps and restrained the invocation / encashment of bank guarantee. The matter has now been listed on November 16, 2021.

It is also interesting to note that the Supreme Court had time and again rejected any attempt to revisit it’s orders and findings pertaining to determination of AGR dues.

Noticeably, the Government has also announced various concessions providing time for payment of AGR dues arising from AGR Judgement also.

Experts say TDSAT ought not to have intervened since the entire question has already been decided by the Supreme Court and these proceedings are on the face of it is an abuse of legal process. This is yet another attempt to stifle and prolong the DoT’s ability to recover its dues, which were disputed, contested, and decided by no less than the Supreme Court, the highest Court of the land.