New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed a
tribunal order upholding a hike in 2G telecom spectrum (radio
waves) usage charges, but asked telcos Bharti, Vodafone and
Idea to deposit with it 50 per cent of the fee they would have
otherwise had to pay.
Hearing an appeal filed by the GSM operators, a bench
comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S
Radhakrishanan and Swatantar Kumar stayed telecom tribunal
TDSAT`s September one order that upheld Telecom Ministry`s
decision to increase 2G spectrum usage charges.
It, however, directed Vodafone, Bharti Airtel, Bharti
Hexacom (operating in Rajasthan) and Idea Cellular to deposit
50 per cent of the proposed increase in fees with the Supreme
The Apex Court further asked the telcos to furnish a bank
guarantee, for the rest 50 per cent liability.
Telecom service providers have to pay a percentage of
their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) to the government as
spectrum usage charge. This charge depends on the quantity of
spectrum held by the operators.
The new charges vary between 3-8 per cent depending upon
the quantum of airwaves held by the respective operators.
As per the new charge, an operator holding spectrum up to
4.4 Mhz will have to pay 3 per cent of the AGR compared to two
per cent now.
"Looking into complexity of the matter and stakes
involved... we stay the impugned order passed by the
tribunal," the apex court said.
Vodafone has to pay Rs 135 crore and the two Bharti firms
have a joint liability of Rs 220 crores on account of enhanced
spectrum usage charges.
"Telecom operators will deposit 50 per cent of the
outstanding principal amount in the Supreme Court registry
within a period of two weeks. Balance amount will be secured
by bank guarantee within two weeks," the bench said, while
issuing notice to DoT.
The Apex court further directed that "the Managing
Director of each operator will file an affidavit before the
court that in the event of their civil appeal is dismissed
their amount would be paid to the government."
Warning the operators, the court further said, "We make
it clear if there is any breach of the impugned order that
the effect of the interim order would cease."