A three-judge bench led by Justice Arun Mishra asked the government to clarify its stand on spectrum license and user charges from PSUs – which the court suggested was slapped as an afterthought after the court ruling against other telcos such as Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, by next Thursday when the court will reconvene to re-examine the issue.
The telcos, which also included Vodafone Idea which has claimed inability to pay the dues due to its precarious financial state, were also asked to file affidavits showing how they intended to pay back their dues. Bharti, Vodafone Idea and Hughes Communications were represented by senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Mukul Rohatgi, Arvind Datar and Kapil Sibal, respectively.
Justice Mishra dubbed the government move to slap similar dues for recovery from PSUs as a “misuse” of its earlier ruling against the private telcos. He warned of action against Department of Telecommunications (DoT) officials responsible for the move while seeking clarity on this move from the Solicitor General who appeared for the government.
SG Tushar Mehta said that a one-time recovery would hit operations in the sector and send some into liquidation, but the bench, which also comprised Justices M.R. Shah and S. Abdul NAzeer, seemed disinclined to the suggestion. “Who knows what will happen in 20 years?” Justice Mishra observed, pointing out that this litigation began in 1999 and was yet to be draw to a close.