Govt. ‘reviewing’ appeal on levy of one-time spectrum charges

The prolonged dispute between the companies and the government on OTSC had taken a significant turn in 2019. File.   | Photo Credit: V.V. KRISHNAN

In what may spell relief for telecom majors, the Union Government informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday that it was “reviewing” whether or not to continue with its appeal regarding the levy of one-time spectrum charges (OTSC) worth approximately ₹40000 crore on the telcos.

Telecom companies have to pay a one-time charges for the spectrum held beyond 4.4 Mhz. The prolonged dispute between the companies and the government on OTSC had taken a significant turn in 2019, when the Telecom Disputes Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) ruled that the charges could be imposed only prospectively.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) had appealed in the apex court agains the Tribunal decision.

On Tuesday, however, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought a three-week adjournment of the case hearing in the DoT appeal.

“We are in the process of considering or reviewing the decision to proceed with the present proceedings of appeal... Several considerations are there. The government has to go through them. Considering the nature of the issues involved, this decision will have to be taken after the scrutiny at various levels which may consume some reasonable time... Give us three weeks’ time,” Mr. Mehta requested a Bench of Justices M.R. Shah and A.S. Bopanna.

Justice Shah asked Mr. Mehta, “Supposition the decision is taken, then what are the consequences”.

Mr. Mehta began to downplay the situation when Justice Shah intervened to point out that “Tell us what are the consequences? For us that is an issue... We have to consider the issue in view of the larger public interest”.

He replied that “we will cross the bridge when we come to it”.

‘Case is very important to us’

“We [government] work very fast... That is why even for an adjournment, we have filed a two-page adjournment... This case is very important to us,” he stated.

Senior advocate Brijesh Chahar, appearing for one of the parties, objected prima facie to the government’s submission. “This is public money of up to ₹45000 crore... The government cannot be allowed to withdraw [its appeal],” he submitted.

Mr. Mehta questioned the locus standi of Mr. Chahar's client to intervene, saying the appeal was filed by the government, and the decision to withdraw or not was a matter strictly between the government and the court.

In its order, the court referred to the affidavit filed by the government to note that “in lieu of the subsequent developments” the Centre was reconsidering its appeal.

The court said it was adjourning the case to November 17 without saying “anything on such proposed decision or its larger implications”.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 4:24:56 PM |

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