In a major setback to telecom operators in India, the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a plea seeking a review of its earlier order that allowed the government to collect dues worth ₹92,000 crore from them.
“Applications for hearing in open court/oral hearing are rejected. Having perused the review petitions and the connected papers with meticulous care, we do not find any justifiable reason to entertain the review petitions. The review petitions are, accordingly, dismissed,” the Supreme Court said.
Telecom companies such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea moved to the a review petition in Supreme Court after the top court last year allowed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to collect the bulk of dues from them, giving the mobile operators three months to comply with the order.
The verdict is seen as a huge blow to telecom companies amid cut-throat competition in the country’s sector. Many companies have debt now going into thousands of crore.
The telecom department has claimed dues of around Rs 92,000 crore as license fee and Rs 41,000 crore as spectrum usage fee from Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Communications
Bharti Airtel owes around ₹23,000 crore, Vodafone Idea ₹19,823.71 crore and Reliance Communications ₹16,456.47 crore.
Reliance Communications, which shut down voice operations in December 2017, filed for bankruptcy last year.
After a long battle in the Supreme Court last year, the court ruled that companies must pay 3-5 per cent of their AGR in spectrum usage charges and 8 percent as licence fees. Companies have long argued that AGR should comprise just revenue accrued from core services, while the government says it should include all revenue.
Vodafone after the verdict last year said unless the government offered relief, or a legal remedy , it would not be able to continue its business in India.