India’s Supreme Court has directed Bharti Airtel to pay Rs 453 crore and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) Rs 298 crore to ailing telecom operator Aircel.
The payments are related to bank guarantees submitted by Aircel, BusinessLine reported.
Some of the Aircel employees had approached the Supreme Court with a contempt petition saying both Airtel and DoT need to repay Rs 751 crore to Aircel. Aircel, which is partly owned by Maxis of Malaysia, has closed down its operations in India.
The orders relate to bank guarantees held by DoT in relation to a spectrum transfer in 2016. Airtel’s payment of Rs 453 crore is expected immediately as the deadline has expired, while DoT is expected to clear payments by January-end or early February.
The Supreme Court has directed Airtel to pay the amount immediately, stating that its orders earlier were misinterpreted. Supreme Court repeated the two orders dated January 9 and July 23, 2018 and directed Airtel to clear payments immediately, lawyers present in the court said.
The DoT was holding about Rs 751 crore as bank guarantees when Aircel had transferred its Broadband and Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum to Bharti Airtel in April 2016. Aircel had to pay DoT Rs 298 crore in cash and Rs 453 crore in bank guarantees as a pre-condition for clearing the spectrum transfer. These were arranged by Airtel, which was deducted from the consideration price of Rs 3,500 crore for buying the BWA spectrum for its 4G business in India.
Aircel had contested DoT’s demand for Rs 751 crore before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT). TDSAT on January 9, 2018 directed that the bank guarantees should be released within four weeks. TDSAT has permitted DoT to retain Rs 298 crore till another issue was settled.