Supreme Court seeks govt reply on Anil Ambani firms’ plea seeking refund from DoT

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September 04, 2021 5:30 AM

The bankrupt companies, which are in the final stages of insolvency proceedings, have sought clarification of the apex court’s January 7, last year’s judgment that asked the government to refund Rs 104.34 crore to them.

A Bench led by Justice UU Lalit issued notice to the government on an application filed by the two companies who argued that any preferential treatment to any creditor over the other creditors is prohibited under Section 14 of the IBC.A Bench led by Justice UU Lalit issued notice to the government on an application filed by the two companies who argued that any preferential treatment to any creditor over the other creditors is prohibited under Section 14 of the IBC.

The Supreme Court on Friday sought a response from the government on a plea by ailing Anil Ambani companies — Reliance Communication (RCL) and Reliance Telecom (RTL) — seeking a refund of the excess amount of over Rs 104 crore, which allegedly was “illegally and unlawfully” encashed by the DoT against their dues of Rs 774 crore towards the deferred spectrum dues.

The bankrupt companies, which are in the final stages of insolvency proceedings, have sought clarification of the apex court’s January 7, last year’s judgment that asked the government to refund Rs 104.34 crore to them. The government had encashed bank guarantees furnished by Ambani companies — RCL and RTL — to the tune of Rs 908.91 crore against the actual dues of Rs 774.25 crore for the deferred spectrum instalments for 2018.

The companies apprehend that DoT “could off-set the illegally encashed excess amount, directed to be returned, towards the adjusted gross revenue dues”, which allegedly is not only incorrect and contrary to the SC judgment but is also in violation of the provisions of the IBC.

A Bench led by Justice UU Lalit issued notice to the government on an application filed by the two companies who argued that any preferential treatment to any creditor over the other creditors is prohibited under Section 14 of the IBC.

Despite the dismissal of its appeals by both the SC and the TDSAT against refund, the DoT has not yet refunded the excess amount, which was “illegally and unlawfully” encashed, the companies said in their application.

During the ongoing CIRP, only verified and admitted claims are either resolved pursuant to a resolution plan approved by NCLT or in liquidation, as the case may be, senior counsel Arvind Datar argued, on behalf of Reliance firms.

Both RCL and predecessor Sistema Shyam Tele Services had emerged successful in 2015 and 2013 spectrum auctions, respectively. After the merger of Sistema with RCL, its assets and liabilities, including the spectrum licence had devolved on the latter. While the government approved the transfer in October 2017, RCL and RTL had bagged further spectrum in 2015 auctions. However, RCL failed to pay the third instalment of deferred spectrum charges of Rs 281.45 crore in terms of NIA 2013. This led to the encashment of bank guarantees to the extent of Rs 281.45 crore and another Rs 492.79 crore for deferred spectrum liability under the NIA 2015.

Despite the Supreme Court in 2018 giving more time to RCL and RTL to pay their dues, the two companies failed to comply, thus prompting the government to encash bank guarantees to the tune of Rs 908.91 crore against the actual dues of Rs 774.25 crore. While the two licensee later in August 2018 submitted fresh bank guarantees of Rs 774.25 crore towards the next instalments of deferred spectrum liability, the government did not refund the excess amount.

RCL and RTL then moved the TDSAT, which in December 2018 directed the central government to return around Rs 104.34 crore. DoT has already adjusted Rs 30.33 crore out of the encashed amount of Rs 908 crore.

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