The Supreme Court will hear on Friday Aircel Cellular’s appeal against a Madras High Court judgment that upheld levy of a one-time spectrum charge (OTSC) of R3,273 crore on it by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). The high court on August 11 had held that the DoT could levy OTSC on Aircel Cellular, rejecting its claim that the department could only get a share of revenues generated from the telecom licences.
A bench headed by Justice Anil R Dave allowed the request for an early hearing on September 2 after senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Aircel Cellular, sought so in the case.
In it appeal, Aircel said the HC had wrongly upheld DoT’s December 18, 2012 and January 8, 2013 orders that imposed OTSC for spectrum, which had already been paid, and the demand letters seeking such payment from it. The retrospective levy of OTSC for the period July 1, 2008 to December 31, 2012, is arbitrary and unreasonable as it constitutes an additional cost of service and cannot be passed on to the consumers as it pertains to a past period, the telco submitted in its appeal.
According to the firm, it had paid the entry fee and continued to pay licence fee (revenue share basis) and spectrum usage charges to DoT in accordance with the terms of the licence agreement.
However, by imposing the OTSC, DoT has levied a charge twice for the same resource, therefore, such demand is “wholly unreasonable, arbitrary, illegal and gross abuse of its authority by the department”, the petition stated.