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[AGR Case] Reliance Jio Tells SC That It Has Paid Its Share Of AGR Dues & Spectrum Sharing Dues; SC To Continue Hearing Tomorrow

Sanya Talwar
18 Aug 2020 4:08 PM GMT
[AGR Case] Reliance Jio Tells SC That It Has Paid Its Share Of AGR Dues & Spectrum Sharing Dues; SC To Continue Hearing Tomorrow
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday was informed by Senior Advocate Harish Salve that Reliance Jio had already paid Rs 195 crore AGR dues and that if there were any remaining dues, if at all, they would be paid by Jio as well.

Salve submitted before a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S. Abdul Nazeer & MR Shah that the payment of the dues which included spectrum sharing charge of Reliance Communications (RCom).

Salve further argued that the aspect of whether Spectrum can be an asset in terms of the IBC emanated from the Code itself & that it would be premature to decide if spectrum can be sold or not under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

The bench observed that there are huge AGR dues payable and it cannot let it go and would decide all issues conclusively.

Salve also apprised the bench that through the tripartite licence agreement, the government has recognised that the spectrum can be used as security by telecom companies to raise funds from the banks.

The hearing will continue tomorrow at 2 PM.

On Monday, Top Court had asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), to file a detailed response on the issue of recovering Reliance Communications' Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues from Reliance Jio.

At the end of the hearing, Senior Advocate Harish Salve told the bench that he will address the court on legal issues of whether the spectrum can be sold under the bankruptcy process.

On August 14, the bench had directed the Centre, Reliance Jio and Reliance Communication's to produce necessary documents in order to bring to light who would be liable for AGR dues of Reliance Communications. The bench also sought details of who was using the spectrum of Aircel and Videocon.

On August 10, Court had sought the Centre's response on whether Telecom Spectrum can be sold/auctioned in the insolvency proceedings faced by the telecom companies.

The Court posed this query while examining the bona fides of bankruptcy claims of Reliance Communications, Aircel and Videocon.

In 2016, Airtel had bought Aircel's 4G airwaves in the 2,300 MHz band and Videcon's spectrum. Earlier this year, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) approved the sale of Aircel's assets to UV Asset Reconstruction Company (UVARCL).

On August 7, the Top Court had reserved orders in the plea by Department of Telecommunications (DoT) seeking to allow telecom companies to make payments of the AGR dues in a staggered fashion over 20 years.

The bench had also made it clear that it shall not entertain any objections for re-assessment/ re-calculation of AGR in light of the decision passed by Top Court in October 2019 and directed Reliance Communications, Sistema, Shyam Teleservices & Videocon to submit their insolvency details within 7 days.

Court noted that, in doing so it needed to ensure that the IBC was not being misused by companies in order to escape liabilities.

While warning all parties to dispense with payments pertaining to public revenue as had already been directed by the Court, the Justice Arun Mishra led bench expressed reservations regarding keeping the payment of dues pending.

"What is the guarantee that you will not escape? Some of you are foreign companies and may even go into liquidation. What is the security that you can give us?" Justice Mishra had asked.

On June 18, the Supreme Court had directed telecom companies to submit their financial documents while considering the instant plea by the Department of Telecommunications to allow them to settle the AGR-related dues in a staggered fashion over 20 years.

On June 11, it had directed the Department of Telecommunication to reconsider the claims raised on Public Sector Undertakings on the basis of the October 2019 verdict in the case pertaining to AGR dues of telecom companies.

The bench had also observed that raising demands on PSUs on the strength of AGR verdict was uncalled for. The bench pointed out that the licenses for telecos and PSUs were of different nature, as the latter was not intended at commercial exploitation.

"This is an outright misuse of our verdict. You are making a demand of over 4 lac crores ! This is wholly and totally impermissible!", Justice Mishra observed on the demands on PSUs.

In March, before the commencement of the ongoing coronavirus-forced lockdown, the Department of Telecom (DoT) had moved the Supreme Court proposing staggered payment over 20 years for telecom firms to discharge their AGR dues.

The Department of Telecommunications (DOT) had filed a plea in the Supreme Court for modification of the order dated October 24, 2019 vis-à-vis arriving at a formula for recovery of past dues from telecom service providers.

In the instant appeal, the union had stated that even though the Court had widened the definition of adjusted gross revenue (AGR), leaving the three telcos, i.e. Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices, collectively facing more than INR1.02 lakh crore in additional licence fees, spectrum usage charges (SUC), penalties and interest, it is imperative that the proposal for mode for recovery is approved.

However, on March 18, Supreme Court lashed out at the Centre and telecom companies for doing self-assessment or reassessment of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues fixed by the apex court in its verdict.

In April, the Supreme Court had rejected pleas by Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices seeking review of the October 24 verdict that widened the definition of adjusted gross revenue (AGR).

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