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Travesty if rivals made to pay each other’s dues: Reliance Jio Infocomm to SC


MUMBAI | NEW DELHI: Reliance Jio Infocomm informed the Supreme Court that it would be a “travesty” of the law if rival telcos are made to pay each other’s dues.

In an affidavit in the top court on Monday, the telco said the Department of Telecommunications had created “misunderstandings” over the statutory liabilities and that the government had so far never claimed such dues based on its spectrum-sharing pact with Reliance Communications (RCom).

“…neither in Parliamentary law, nor in the regulations that govern telecom operations nor in any of the contracts entered into between the network operators and the DoT is there any legal basis for making one network operator liable for the dues of the other network operator. It would be a travesty if competitors are made liable for the dues of each other,” Jio said.

The country’s largest telco has been dragged into the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) case mainly between India’s older telcos and DoT after the apex court sought to find out if bankrupt telcos such as RCom, Aircel and Videocon had filed for insolvency to evade paying the dues.

It asked the DoT for its stand on making Jio liable for some of RCom’s Rs 31,000 crore AGR dues since the Mukesh Ambani-owned telco had been using some of RCom’s airwaves under a 2016 spectrum-sharing agreement.

Jio said it is not liable for RCom’s statutory dues and blamed the DoT for creating the impression that it was responsible. It detailed the concept of spectrum sharing and how there was “no exclusive use of the spectrum of another allowed, and on the contrary the leasing of spectrum was expressly prohibited.”

“This submission is being filed for limited purpose of addressing certain misunderstandings and erroneous impressions that appear to have been created by DoT,” Jio said.

Jio said it signed the pact with RCom by paying Rs 6,627 crore to liberalise spectrum that has been allocated without auctions. There is no provision in the spectrumsharing guidelines for sharing of liabilities or joint and several liability for DoT dues, Jio said.

“Had this been so, RJIL would at no point have entered into this spectrum sharing pact,” it said.

Jio shares 97.50 MHz of its spectrum and RCom shares 58.75 MHz of its spectrum in the 800 MHz band and both companies can use the aggregated shared spectrum. In its affidavit, Jio said the shared spectrum comprises about 23.5% of the total spectrum held by RCom and 9.6% of spectrum in use by Jio. Jio said even the government had not claimed AGR dues for using RCom’s spectrum.

“DoT has never made any claim against RJIL. If any such claim is to be made, it would have to be made in a manner known to law, and in a proceeding appropriately constituted to which RJIL is a party,” the telco said. While Jio has paid its AGR dues of Rs 195 crore, RCom owes the government Rs 31,000 crore in statutory dues, , including those of Sistema Shyam.

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