The Supreme Court on Friday said Reliance Jio must pay adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues of Reliance Communications NSE 4.44 % since it has been using the latter’s spectrum since 2016, and asked all bankrupt telcos — who have expressed their inability to pay dues worth ₹57,000 crore — to explain who used their airwaves while the insolvency resolution proceedings were on.
“Reliance Jio must pay ailing RCom’s AGR dues if it has been using RCom’s spectrum since 2016,” a three-judge bench led by justice Arun Mishra observed. The top court was examining whether claims of these companies under the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code (IBC) were bona fide.
The bench also sought details of who was using the spectrum of Aircel and Videocon, the other two ailing telecom companies. Back in 2016, Airtel had bought Aircel’s 4G airwaves in the 2,300 MHz band and Videcon’s 4G spectrum in the 1,800 MHz band through the spectrum trading route. Earlier this year, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) approved the sale of Aircel’s assets to UV Asset Reconstruction Company (UVARCL).
“Is Reliance Jio using RCom’s spectrum? If so, since when?” the bench asked the RCom’s resolution professional who was represented in the court by senior advocate Shyam Divan.
Divan said that “a part” of the spectrum was “lying idle” and “another part” was being “shared” with “Reliance Jio” under a 2016 deal. That involved use of 800 MHz spectrum. The bench then sought to know why it should not assign the whole of the AGR dues of RCom to Jio to be paid off.
“How can you avoid liability of paying AGR dues? We catch hold of you (Jio) and make you pay. The person using spectrum must pay. Why should we not treat the (2016) deal as effectuated?” asked the bench.
Reliance Jio, through its advocate KV Vishwanathan, argued that spectrum “trading” and “sharing” were two different things and “sharing” would only entail paying spectrum usage charges (SUC). He sought more time to argue these points.
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