Rs 3,273 cr Aircel spectrum case: Supreme Court seeks govt response

By: | Published: September 3, 2016 6:21 AM

The Supreme Court on Friday sought the response of the telecom ministry on the Aircel Cellular's appeal against the Madras High Court decision that upheld levy of a one-time spectrum charge (OTSC) of Rs 3,273 crore by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

While dismissing petitions filed by Aircel Cellular, Aircel and Dishnet Wireless, the HC had held as valid the Section 4 of the Telegraph Act, 1885, which grants exclusive privilege to the government to impose OTSC on service providers in addition to revenue sharing if it deemed fit.While dismissing petitions filed by Aircel Cellular, Aircel and Dishnet Wireless, the HC had held as valid the Section 4 of the Telegraph Act, 1885, which grants exclusive privilege to the government to impose OTSC on service providers in addition to revenue sharing if it deemed fit.

The Supreme Court on Friday sought the response of the telecom ministry on the Aircel Cellular’s appeal against the Madras High Court decision that upheld levy of a one-time spectrum charge (OTSC) of Rs 3,273 crore by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).The matter is being keenly watched by the telcom industry, as various petitions by Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone and others on the similar matter are pending before different high courts and the TDSAT. A bench headed by justice AK Sikri, while issuing notice to the Centre, asked the department not to take any coercive action against Aircel and posted the matter for further hearing on September 19.

The Madras HC had on August 11 rejected Aircel’s plea and held that the DoT can claim share of adjusted gross revenue, including income from non-telecom activities. Counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Aircel, argued that the HC had erroneously upheld the payment of OTS retrospectively, and the department had not yet raised a quantified demand. Besides, the issue of spectrum usage was completely separate from the issue of licence fees.

While dismissing petitions filed by Aircel Cellular, Aircel and Dishnet Wireless, the HC had held as valid the Section 4 of the Telegraph Act, 1885, which grants exclusive privilege to the government to impose OTSC on service providers in addition to revenue sharing if it deemed fit. The court also asked the DoT to issue fresh notices to Aircel and two others within a month quantifying the amount and also directed the companies to pay the same within a month.

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