Telecom AGR case: Hearing ends, SC reserves judgement

The Supreme Court on Monday concluded its hearing on the telecom adjusted gross revenue (AGR) case and reserved the judgement for a new date.

Although, the Bench has not mentioned any date for the judgement, it is expected to happen before September 2, when Justice Arun Mishra retires.

The Bench headed by Justice Mishra (along with Justices MR Shah and Abdul Nazeer) continued hearing on the issue of recovery of dues from insolvent telcos.

On Friday’s hearing, the main point of the arguments was around the spectrum as an asset for the telecom companies, its sale and related rights as the apex Court on Thursday, had expressed concerns that most of the dues from telcos could be wiped out under ongoing IBC process.

The Court had earlier asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to submit affidavit of details of spectrum sharing and licence trading agreements of the telcos.

The SC will give judgement on three aspects — issue of staggered payment where DoT is seeking 20 years, but companies such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea seeking 15 years; on the issue of right to use of spectrum (if it can be transferred, assigned or sold) under IBC; and lastly on additional liabilities, if any on companies including Reliance Jio and Airtel for past dues of RCom, Videocon and Aircel.

The SC observed that it has been almost a year since its AGR judgement and asked why was DoT dithering.

At one point, it said the government should move to cancel licence and spectrum if dues are being wiped out. “If telcos are unwilling to pay, we will direct to cancel the spectrum allocation. How else is DoT supposed to deal with such an issue?,” it asked.

The apex court further said, “How can you sell somebody else’s property? This will allow for dues to be wiped out, a new party will take over free of all encumbrances, liabilities. The wiping out of the government dues in this fashion is not permissible.”

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