Bharti Airtel secures TDSAT stay on DoT's Rs 1,376 crore demand

Telecom dispute appellate body TDSAT on Thursday stayed the telecom department's demand of Rs 1,376 crore from Bharti Airtel in unpaid past dues that defunct telco Videocon Telecommunications owed.

The dues were of Videocon Telecommunications, whose spectrum was acquired by the Sunil Mittal-led carrier in 2016. And so the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), post-Supreme Court verdict on the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) last year, asked Airtel to pay the dues that arose on that spectrum.

TDSAT heard the company's challenge and stayed the demand.

The Supreme Court in its September 2020 judgment, commonly referred to as the 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.

Videocon had sold rights to use spectrum in the 1,800 MHz band in six circles to Airtel in 2016 for Rs 4,428 crore.

TDSAT in its order stayed the DoT demand and directed it not to take any coercive steps such as invocation or encashment of bank guarantee.

The matter has now been listed for hearing on November 16.

Airtel contends that it is not responsible for Videocon's dues on account of the spectrum trading deal, claiming the law states that the 'seller shall clear all dues prior to concluding any agreement for spectrum trading'.

Hearing Airtel's petition against the DoT demand, the Supreme Court had on August 24 categorically ruled that it will not review its AGR judgment but had allowed the firm to go to the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) for relief over the issue.

The AGR judgment dealt with the revenues of a telecom company that needs to be considered for payment of government levies.

The Supreme Court has rejected multiple challenges to revisit the AGR judgment.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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