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Supreme Court to hear Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel’s pleas next week

Image for representational purposes only

Image for representational purposes only   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

“Payment of thousands of crores in due amounts will cause irreparable damage to telecom industry,” the telcos say

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear next week the pleas filed by telecom majors Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel for modification of the court’s October 24, 2019 order for payment of dues to the government within three months.

A Bench led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde agreed to list the pleas for an urgent hearing before a Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra.

The telcos have sought the court’s intervention, saying the October direction would spell huge ramifications in the telecom industry and “severely hamper” programmes like Digital India, Make in India and Skill India.

The pleas come shortly after a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Arun Mishra, on January 16, had dismissed petitions filed by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, among others, for a review of its October 2019 judgment upholding the recovery of past dues amounting to ₹1.47 lakh crore from them. The recovery by the government was based on adjusted gross revenue of about ₹92,000 crore.

Vodafone urged the court to alter its order and permit it to submit an application before the Department of Telecom (DoT) for drawing up a schedule for payment of the dues.

The review petitions were rejected by the Bench, also comprising Justices Abdul S. Nazeer and M.R. Shah, in their chambers.

Bharti said the exercise for calculating the amounts due, including past demands, were continuing and would require further interaction with the government as it covered licences across 22 circles and period of over 15 years. Besides, it said all the parties would take time to “reconcile” with the calculations.

“Payment of thousands of crores in due amounts without proper assessment and financial calculations and time for payment will not only cause irreparable damage to the appellants (telcos) but also to the telecom industry at large, leading to possible disruption of a public utility service owing to the bad financial position of the telecom companies,” they appealed.

If unmodified, the October 2019 schedule for payment may risk large-scale job losses, destruction of billions of dollars of capital investments due to bankruptcies and poor financial health and large-scale NPAs. Besides, the impact would have a ripple effects on vendors and retailers. The 5G and future technologies to support Digital India Mission may get “compromised”, the appeals painted a bleak picture.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 7:43:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-to-hear-vodafone-idea-bharti-airtels-pleas-next-week/article30613112.ece

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