The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has received legal opinion that it has the power to settle cases such as those over one-time spectrum charges (OTSC) out of court, a person familiar with the matter said.
“The legal opinion has thrown the ball in the DoT’s court, saying that it is well within DoT’s administrative powers to settle the case outside court,” the person told ET.
However, DoT has previously received sums from various telcos toward OTSC. The department is now studying what bearing out-of-court settlements may have on these amounts it has already received from telecom companies.
For example, in July 2018, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular had together paid ₹7,248 crore to the DoT as OTSC dues, though under protest, fulfilling a precondition for the government to approve their merger. Back then, Kumar Mangalam Birla-owned Idea Cellular had furnished bank guarantees to the tune of ₹3,322.4 crore while Vodafone India had paid ₹3,926.34 crore in cash to the DoT toward OTSC.
SC to Hear Issue on Nov 17
But, as reported by ET in its October 5 edition, the government is looking for out-of-court settlements to end all major legal disputes with telecom operators as it tries to help rebuild the sector into a profitable one. To this end, a day later, the DoT had told the Supreme Court that it wants to reconsider its appeal against a telecom tribunal ruling backing the telcos’ argument that OTSC should be levied prospectively. The next hearing in the OTSC matter is on November 17 and the DoT needs to firm up its views by then. According to the government’s estimates, about Rs 15,000 crore is locked under dispute with as OSTC while the amount for Bharti is Rs 8,414 crore.