There seems to be no respite for the country's largest telecom operator Reliance Jio. In the last hearing on the AGR (adjusted gross revenues) case, the court asked Jio why it's not liable to pay the dues for the Reliance Communications' spectrum that it has been using for the past three years. Today, the three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra asked the government, DoT (Department of Telecommunications) to be precise, to clarify its position on whether Jio should pay for the spectrum deal that it had signed with now-insolvent RCom. In 2016, the Mukesh Ambani-controlled Jio signed a deal with brother Anil Ambani's RCom to use its spectrum in 17 circles to deliver 4G services.
Last October, when the Supreme Court gave the AGR verdict against telecom operators, RCom was one of the affected parties. As per DoT's last assessment figures, RCom owes it Rs 25,194.58 crore towards AGR dues. Although the recent numbers would be slightly different, the court has asked for the latest dues for RCom. Since Jio is using a part of RCom spectrum, the bench believes that by using public assets like spectrum, Jio is liable for AGR payments.
The government though played safe on the court's clarification by saying that it will support whatever position the apex court takes towards securing the dues. Jio, in the last hearing, had said it has been paying SUC charges on the shared spectrum which is in line with the spectrum sharing guidelines of the government.
The bench also raised doubts on the insolvency procedure of the RCom. Justice Mishra reportedly asked about the asset value depletion of the RCom, and whether RCom's spectrum can be sold under the IBC.
The bench reportedly argued that the value of RCom's assets has reduced sharply from around Rs 35,000 crore before IBC proceedings to over Rs 10,000 crore now. The RCom's representative argued in FY19, the banks wanted to sell the company but it didn't materialise, and then they had to take the IBC route. Under the IBC resolution, some 141 parties showed interest in RCom, and UVARCL emerged as the successful resolution applicant. As per the resolution plan, Delhi-based UVARCL will issue zero-coupon bonds to the banks which would be redeemable in five years.