AGR case: Give airwave details of bankrupt telecom firms, says SC

The SC sent similar notices seeking details of spectrum-sharing agreĀ­ements to Aircel Cellular, Dishnet Wireless, and Videocon Telecommunications
The Supreme Court of India on Friday sought details of the telecom operators using the airwaves that were allotted to the now bankrupt companies. 

The court directed the government, Reliance Jio, and Reliance Communications’ resolution professional to produce necessary documents to ascertain the adju­sted gross revenue (AGR) liabilities of RCom. It also sought details from RCom regarding its spectrum of 800 megahertz being used by Jio from 2016.

The SC sent similar notices seeking details of spectrum-sharing agre­ements to Aircel Cellular, Dishnet Wireless, and Videocon Telecommunications. “We have directed them (telcos) to place on record information relating to agreements entered into with respect to using of spectrum by the respective parties,” the SC said on Friday. The SC will hear the matter again on August 17.

Jio had informed the apex court that according to the spectrum-sharing guidelines, users were only required to pay spectrum usage charge. Jio shares around 38 per cent of the total spectrum held by RCom. RCom's 4G liberalised spectrum in 800 MHz band is being shared by Jio and RCom from April 2016 (2G, 3G, and 4G spectrum in 1800 MHz band of RCom is not being shared). RCom also holds spectrum in 2100 MHz band.

Sources said the AGR dues of RCom were in no manner connected and AGR had been paid by both RCom and Jio on the revenue generated from the shared spectrum.

On August 10, the SC had observed that the government should prepare a plan to recover AGR dues from bankrupt telcos. Representing RCom, the State Bank of India (SBI), had said the amount payable under a resolution plan shall be paid on priority to operational creditors over financial creditors. The application for intervention was filed by SBI on behalf of committee of creditors of RCom including BoB, Axis Bank, UCO Bank, Punjab National Bank, HDFC, and LIC. This appeal came after the SC said it would examine the AGR dues of firms that have gone into bankruptcy.

According to the DoT’s calculations, Bharti Airtel owes Rs 43,780 crore of AGR dues, of which the company has paid Rs 18,004 crore. Vodafone Idea has so far paid Rs 7,854 crore of Rs 50,399 crore dues. Tata Teleservices has paid about Rs 4,197 crore and the balance amount due is about Rs 12,601 crore.

In an affidavit filed with the SC, Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL) had said that RCom was liable to pay its AGR dues. The DoT has evaluated a combined AGR liability of Rs 25,194.58 crore for RCom and SSTL as of March 6. Of that, Rs 222.1 crore belongs to the Indo-Russian joint venture that merged into RCom in 2017. In February 2019, RCom filed for insolvency.

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