Supreme Court asks DoT not to invoke bank guarantees of Airtel for three weeks to recover AGR dues of Videocon

A view of the Supreme Court of India. File  

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to not invoke bank guarantees of Bharti Airtel for three weeks, towards recovery of ₹1,376 crore in AGR dues of Videocon Telecommunications Ltd. Videocon had sold its mobile spectrum to the Bharti group.

A three-judge Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao provided the temporary relief to the Bharti group (represented by senior advocate Shyam Divan) which had moved the apex court challenging the notice issued by DoT on August 17 for payment of AGR dues of Videocon. DoT had asked Bharti to pay within a week of the date of the notice, failing which the bank guarantees were to be invoked.

Mr. Divan, in the course of the hearing, agreed to withdraw from the Supreme Court to approach the “appropriate forum” for redressal against the notice.

Granting it liberty to do so, the Bench in turn noted that the DoT was “at liberty to raise all contentions”.

“The Department of Telecommunications shall not invoke the financial bank guarantees of respondent no.53 (Bharti) for a period of three weeks from today,” the court ordered.

Videocon had sold its spectrum to Bharti Airtel in pursuance of agreements entered into with the latter in 2016. The Bharti group has paid ₹18,004 crore in AGR-related dues to DoT till March 31, 2021, which is much more than 10% of its total AGR dues of more than ₹43,000 crore, Mr. Divan argued.

In its order of September last year, the apex court had said that telecom operators shall make the payment of 10% of the total dues as demanded by the DoT by March 31, 2021 and the rest be paid in yearly instalments from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2031.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 5:37:13 AM |

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