The Supreme Court has exempted Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio from paying around 40,000 crores of past dues for using spectrum of telecom companies, that are now bankrupt. Notably, Jio uses spectrum of Anil Ambani's cash-strapped Reliance Communications (RCom), while Airtel avails spectrum owned by Videocon and Aircel.
"Shared operator telecom companies cannot be saddled with liability of past AGR dues," the court said in its detailed judgement on payment of dues.
The exemption, however, deals specifically with the shared spectrum used by companies and does not include their original dues.
The top court on Tuesday gave telecom companies 10 years to clear huge dues owed to the government, called adjusted gross revenue (AGR), amounting to about Rs 1.6 lakh crore, in staggered payments. A three-judge bench of the top court said telecom companies must pay 10 per cent of the dues by March 31 next year.
The court also said the issue of sale of spectrum by telecom companies facing insolvency proceedings will be decided by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).