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Centre files affidavit in Supreme Court against Telecom Appeals Tribunal order on spectrum charge

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The Central government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on a petition filed by the Department of Telecommunications, challenging the Telecom Appeals Tribunal’s order of July 4, 2019 that quashed its demand for a one-time spectrum charge (OTSC) on spectrum allotted beyond start-up 4.4 MHz.

The affidavit was filed on Monday by K. Raja Raman, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Ministry of Telecommunications, New Delhi.

According to the affidavit, the Telecom sector has been experiencing financial stress since some time due to various circumstances. It is respectfully submitted that despite certain measures taken by the Government in public interest, most of the Telephony Service Providers (TSPs) providing for mobile phones and broadband have been making losses.

The Indian Bank Association has also conveyed to the Central Government in writing that adverse developments in the telecommunication sector may lead to failures, vanishing competition, duopoly, unsustainable operations and severe loss for the banking system, which has a huge exposure to this sector.

The Central government submitted that after taking into consideration several facts and keeping in mind public interest as the dominant guiding light, the Central Government vide its decision dated September 15, 2021 during a Central Cabinet meeting, took various decisions to promote public interest, protecting government revenue and more particularly, encouraging competition among the telecom service providers by preventing a situation where the viability of some of the TSPs becomes unsustainable, resulting in a monopolistic situation and other adverse impacts on economy. The said decision is taken after inter ministerial consultations and examining the issue from various perspectives.

The Central Government is desirous of reviewing and/or re-considering its decision to proceed with the present proceedings of appeal. It is submitted that considering the nature of the issues involved, this decision will have to be taken after scrutiny at various levels, which may consume some reasonable time, said the affidavit.

In view of the above referred circumstances, the Central government prayed  for three weeks’ time, so as to enable the government to take an informed decision, on whether to proceed with the present appeal or not.  

In light of the above, the Central Government prayed for adjourning the above referred group of appeals for the period of four weeks.

The Supreme Court had, in October 2019, mandated that telecom operators pay Rs 1,19,292 crore to the Department of Telecommunications as AGR dues. However, later in September 2020, the Supreme Court had granted 10 years to the operators to make staggered payments of AGR dues, including penalty, interest and interest on penalty through March 31, 2031.

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