HC seeks Centre reply on Airtel plea for refund

HC seeks Centre reply on Airtel plea for refund
HC seeks Centre reply on Airtel plea for refund

Delhi High Court today sought the Centre’s response on telecom major Bharti Airtel’s plea seeking refund of over Rs 2,500 crore, which includes disputed licence fees of Rs 399.92 crore paid by it for its Punjab circle for 1996-98 and interest on the amount.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal issued notice to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and sought its reply by September 29 on Airtel’s plea challenging a single judge order holding that the telecom company was not entitled to refund.

“The limited question is whether you are entitled to refund,” the bench observed while issuing notice.

In its plea, Airtel has contended that it was not liable to pay licence fees for Punjab telecom circle for April 1996 to March 1998 as the government “had of its own accord unilaterally, illegally and without any basis brought about a de-facto suspension of the licence during that period”.

The telecom major has said that prior to going for arbitration it had in 2001 deposited the amount with DoT on the understanding that if the company wins the dispute, then the amount would be refunded.

The arbitrator had dismissed the refund claim of the company against which it came to high court which in 2012 had set aside the arbitral award, Airtel has said in its petition.

The 2012 decision was challenged by DoT and is still pending before another bench of Delhi High Court which rejected the government’s plea for stay, the company has said in its petition.

Airtel said it had then sought refund of the amount and when it was not granted, had moved a writ petition which was decided on May 11, 2016, by the single judge who had said that as per some previous verdicts of the high court, the relief sought by the company cannot be granted.

As per Airtel’s plea, it has sought refund of Rs 399.92 crore deposited in 2001 with DoT, Rs 2095.95 crore interest on the amount from 2001 till 2012, coming to a total of Rs 2495.87 crore.

It has also sought additional interest, from 2012 till payment, on the total amount, contending that once arbitral award was set aside and as the order was not stayed on DoT appeal, retaining of the licence fees by the government amounts to “unjust enrichment”.

(Source : PTI)

LTL wants spl court to commit mistake and violate SC order: CBI

CBI today opposed the plea of Loop Telecom Ltd (LTL), facing trial in a case arising out of probe into 2G scam, for referring the matter to Lok Adalat, saying the accused want the special court to commit a “mistake” by passing an order in violation of the Supreme Court directive.

CBI argued that LTL, whose similar petition was dismissed by the court in March last year, has again filed the plea in the special court which cannot review its earlier order on the issue.

“This court has already passed an order on the issue and it cannot review it,” Senior public prosecutor K K Goel told Special CBI Judge O P Saini.

The prosecutor further said, “Why they (accused) are not going to Supreme Court on this issue? Why they want this court to commit a mistake or pass an illegal order?”

CBI argued that apex court had categorically ordered that only the special court would hear matters of 2G spectrum scam and “if this court will write in its order that the matter is referred to the Lok Adalat, then it will be a violation of the Supreme Court’s order.”

During the arguments, senior advocate S V Raju, appearing for LTL, argued that chances of arriving at a settlement was there as the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has not said that they do not want to settle the issue.

“DoT is saying they are not a party to the case. DoT is not saying they do not want to settle or compound…Chances of settlement are there as DoT has said that they will abide by what the court will decide,” he said.

Raju further said that LTL has already given a “concrete proposal” to DoT for settlement and the alleged offences, for which the firm is facing trial, were compoundable.

The court has reserved its order for March 12 on the plea filed by LTL and co-accused Vikash Saraf, Essar Group Director (Strategy and Planning) who are facing trial along with others including promoters of Essar Group, Ravi Ruia and Anshuman Ruia, Loop promoters Kiran Khaitan, her husband I P Khaitan.

The court also said that it would hear final arguments in the case from April 1.

Lok Adalat is an alternative dispute resolution mechanism by which parties involved in civil and compoundable criminal cases try to arrive at a compromise to settle their case.

DoT seeks time to file reply on Loop Telecom’s plea

telecomDepartment of Telecommunication (DoT) today sought six weeks from a special court to file its response on a plea by Loop Telecom Ltd, facing trial in a case relating to the probe into the 2G spectrum allocation scam, for referring the matter to the Lok Adalat.

A DoT official, who appeared in the court, told Special CBI Judge O P Saini that he has got an instruction from the department to seek time to file reply which was scheduled to be furnished today.

The court told the department that it would not grant six weeks time to file the reply as the matter was pending for a long time.

“DoT seeks time to file reply. Reluctantly allowed. Put up for reply, if any, of DoT on February 18,” the court said.

Loop Telecom Ltd is facing trial in a case along with promoters of Essar Group, Ravi Ruia and Anshuman Ruia, and Loop promoters Kiran Khaitan, her husband I P Khaitan and Essar Group Director (Strategy and Planning) Vikash Saraf.

Besides them, two other telecom companies — Loop Mobile India Ltd and Essar Tele Holding Ltd — are also facing trial in the case. All of them have denied charges levelled by CBI.

CBI had earlier opposed the plea filed by Loop Telecom Ltd saying it should be dismissed as their application was not legally maintainable and the firm was trying to get the court’s last year’s order, dismissing a similar petition filed by the accused, “reviewed”.

The court, on March 27 last year, had dismissed a plea by Loop Telecom Ltd seeking directions for referring the case to Lok Adalat, observing that prima facie there were “no chances of settlement” and the case had “wider ramifications”.

Lok Adalat is an alternative dispute resolution mechanism by which the parties involved in civil and compoundable criminal cases try to arrive at a compromise to settle their case.

Ex-PM, Cabinet were under confusion: Raja

2g1Former telecom minister A. Raja told a Delhi court on Tuesday that former prime minister Manmohan Singh and his Cabinet members were “completely under confusion” created by “vested interests” about policy and procedure of the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) in the allocation of 2G spectrum. Deposing as a witness to defend himself in the ongoing trial in the 2G spectrum allocation case, Raja, an accused, told the court that he had held many discussions with the then prime minister and explained to him the policy and legal framework governing the issuance of licences and allotment of spectrum.

He also claimed that he had told Singh that there was a “cartel force” wanting to stop legitimate efforts of the DoT to boost tele-density and reduce tariff in the country by injecting competition. “I further disclosed (to PM) how pressure was put on me through legal and other means to restrain myself from these efforts. The prime minister told me that he got the letter (sent by Raja in November 2007) and it was discussed at length in the PMO, where a separate joint secretary is posted to look after DoT to apprise PM of all these issues,” Raja told special CBI judge O.P. Saini.

“I submitted relevant papers in a folder to the prime minister. Further he told me that members of the Cabinet were also completely under confusion created by vested interests and he handed over a letter to me which was written by Kamal Nath, the then Union minister, addressed to prime minister, which raised the same issues and wanted constitution of a group of ministers on these issues (relating to the policy and procedure of DoT),” he said.

Raja, whose deposition will continue on Wednesday, also told the court that he had “further felt that the Prime Minister/ PMO was completely misguided by the vested interests, who had taken the same stand before TDSAT on the issues”.

“In Parliament also, such confusing questions were asked by MPs at the behest of vested interests. So, I took the issue seriously and replied to the prime minister on the same day (on November 2, 2007) by writing the aforesaid letter. Explaining the correct legal position,” he said.

(Source:PTI)

2G: Court notice to DoT, CBI

bbDec 16 (IANS) A special court hearing the 2G case Monday issued notice to the CBI and the department of telecommunications (DoT) on a plea filed by Loop Telecom Ltd seeking directions for referring the matter to the Lok Adalat.

Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Judge O.P. Saini issued notice to CBI and DoT and posted the matter for Feb 20, 2014.

Loop Telecom Limited filed a plea seeking the court’s direction for referring the matter to the Lok Adalat, a system of alternative dispute resolution that focuses on compromise between two parties, for “settlement”, saying the offences alleged against the firm were compoundable.

Loop and the Essar Group are facing charges of criminal conspiracy for cheating the department of telecommunications (DoT).

A third set of charges filed by the CBI in the 2G case alleged that promoters of the Essar Group were the real investors and beneficiaries of the spectrum and licenses issued to Loop Telecom, which was used as a front company by the Essar Group to acquire the 2G licenses and spectrum in 2008.

This has been denied by the accused.

(Source: IANS)

3G roaming services: HC asks Centre to form panel

The  Centre has been asked by the Delhi High Court to set up a committee to examine and decide the row between the Department of Telecommunications and the telecom operators over providing 3G roaming services to their customers outside their licensed areas.
The direction of the court came on telecom major Reliance Communication’s appeal against a single judge bench order to the Centre to take no coercive action against Bharti Airtel for providing 3G roaming services to its customers outside its licensed area.

Disposing of the plea by the Anil Ambani-led firm, a bench of chief justice D Murugesan and justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw the bench said, “Constitute a committee in a week to deal with it.”

The bench passed the order after considering Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Rajeeve Mehra’s submission that the Department of Telecom, for which he appeared, was willing to set up a panel to hear and decide the contentions of affected parties on the issue.

DoT will now constitute within a week a committee to go examine the issue of 3G roaming services being offered by telecom majors by entering into agreements with each other. The panel, after its constitution, would fix a date of hearing and after its conclusion, would pass an order within four weeks.

According to the bench, “As the time frame for each step was put forth by the ASG, the committee should adhere to it.” A single-judge bench had earlier on October 3 directed that no coercive steps would be taken against telecom major Bharti Airtel after it moved the court against a show-cause notice of DoT to it to stop providing 3G roaming services to its customers outside its licensed area.

DoT had alleged that telecom majors have been violating its terms by providing 3G roaming services to their customers outside their licensed areas by entering into arrangements among themselves.

2G: High Court asks Centre to respond to Essar”s plea

The Delhi High Court asked the Centre  to respond to the pleas of Essar Teleholdings Ltd and its promoters, Ravi and Anshuman Ruia, for quashing of the charges framed against them in a case linked to the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

Notice has been issued by Justice AK Pathak to the Ministry of Law, the CBI and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), seeking their replies to the petitions of the telecom major and its two promoters against a lower court order on framing of charges against them for their trial in the case.

The court issued notices to the Law Ministry and the DoT, rejecting their contentions that the same cannot be issued against them as they were not the parties to the case.

Appearing for the telecom firm, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi argued that DoT and the Law Ministry too be asked to respond to the petition as it is the case of the CBI that the company had cheated the DoT.

Rohatgi elaborated on his submission saying it was the Law Ministry which had opined that no case was made out against the telecom firm.

“If I have cheated something from DoT, let them file an affidavit that they have been cheated”

The telecom firm also sought to distinguish its case from those against the other accused in the 2G scam saying “we have a better case than the others as there is no Prevention of Corruption Act invoked against us.”

The court has now fixed the matter for further hearing on January 22, 2013.

The telecom firm and its promoters have moved the high court against the May 25 order of the Special CBI court which had framed charges against the Ruias and Essar Teleholdings Ltd and also Essar Group director (Strategy and Planning) Vikas Saraf.

Besides, Ruias, Essar Teleholdings Ltd, the court had also framed charges against companies – Loop Telecom Pvt Ltd, Loop Mobile India Ltd and their promoters Kiran Khaitan and her husband I P Khaitan under section 120 B read with 420 IPC.

More time sought from SC for auction of spectrum

The central government Thursday moved the Supreme Court for “further and final extension of time” for the auction and allocation of 122 2G licenses and spectrum that were cancelled by the apex court by its order of Feb 2, 2012.

The application by the government has said that it needed time till Nov 12, 2012, to commence the auction and another 40 days to complete auction and allocate licenses and spectrum.

The government said it needed further extension of time for the auction of 2G licenses in “public interest” to ensure that the “auction yielded maximum revenue to the government of India. It would, therefore, be in the interest of justice to grant the extension needed.”

The application listed eight steps that the government has already taken to ensure the “conduct and completion of the auction” in accordance with the orders of the apex court.

The steps so far complied with included Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) recommendations on the auction of the cancelled licences and the study of the same by an internal committee of the department of telecommunications (DoT) which submitted its report April 30.

The government also said that the Telecom Commission had made recommendations to the government April 30 after considering the report of the internal committee and the recommendations of the TRAI.

The application, seeking extension of time for ensuring the efficient conduct of the auction of spectrum, said that the government after the auction bids had issued letter of intent to Times Internet Limited Aug 6.

The earlier extension of three months given by the apex court is due to expire Aug 31.

The apex court by its Feb 2 order had cancelled all the 122 licenses that were granted by former telecom minister A. Raja on and after Jan 10, 2008.

The court while cancelling the 2G licences had given the government four months’ time till June 2 to complete the process of auctioning the cancelled licences. This was also the date when the licences that were cancelled were to be terminated.

The court gave the extension of three months till Aug 31 on the plea of the central government seeking 400 days’ time till March 2013 for conducting the auction of the cancelled licences.

Videocon got 2G licence through forgery: Balwa

Videocon chairman Venugopal Dhoot got the licence and start-up spectrum for second generation (2G) telecom services through forgery, Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa alleged in a special court here Tuesday.

“Dhoot flashed the ID card of Rajkumar Dhoot who is his brother and member of parliament and also member of some telecom committee in parliament,” Balwa’s counsel Majid Memon said in the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court.

“Because of this he was given preference and entered the Department of Telecom (DoT) first and hence got the license,” he told the special court presided over by Judge O.P. Saini.

Asking why the CBI was not probing Dhoot’s role, he said: “He cheated the DoT posing as Rajkumar Dhoot, then why is the CBI not probing this matter… why is it being ignored?”He Memon also denied the CBI’s allegation that Balwa was an insider.

“If I assume I was an insider then why has Swan not got Haryana and Rajasthan circles, which are the most lucrative? Delhi is not a lucrative circle. Where is the question of I being a blue-eyed baby of a minister (former telecom minister A. Raja)?”

Balwa also spoke and said he was the one who submitted the Letter of Intent first as he was “agile”.

“I ran that day, took the staircase when all the other people got stuck in the elevator. A major scuffle took place outside the room that day. You cannot blame me as I am agile and submitted the LoI in time,” said Balwa.

Balwa had Monday said the CBI was selectively targeting some firms in the 2G spectrum case. He also asked how could he have cost the exchequer when the prime minister and Communications Minister Kapil Sibal have said that there was no loss in the 2G case.

Videocon was among the nine new companies that got 2G licences in 2008. The CBI has charged 14 accused and three companies of causing a loss of Rs.30,984 crore to the exchequer by selling the scarce resource, also called radio frequency that helps carry telecom signals, to private players cheap.

Besides Balwa, the accused include DMK MP Kanimozhi, Kalaignar TV’s chief Sharad Kumar, Cineyug’s Karim Morani, his cousin Asif Balwa and Rajeev Agarwal, who are directors of Kusegaon, and Unitech Wireless’s Sanjay Chandra.