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BSNL may take legal route to recover Aircel dues

Adding to the series of cases pending against Aircel, state-owned telco BSNL is also planning to move court to retrieve dues. In a letter to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), BSNL said it is exploring options including legal remedies for recovering an outstanding amount of Rs 42 crore.

This was confirmed by BSNL’s Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava to news agency PTI.

The outstanding dues are from inter-operator settlements like call connect usage charges, tower sharing and intra-circle roaming deals. Of this, BSNL has reportedly recovered Rs 32.2 crore, while Rs 42 crore still remains.

BSNL in its letter also asked the government to intervene “by way of setting off any excess amounts of the company that may be available with the Department of Telecommunications.”

Aircel’s legal troubles

This is only the latest among many cases of outstanding dues on Aircel. The company had filed for bankruptcy in February citing deep financial stress. The NCLT accepted Aircel’s petition for bankruptcy albeit saying that the company had scope for revival.

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Earlier, Swedish company Ericsson moved the Delhi High Court to recover dues worth Rs 251.40 crore from Aircel. Tower companies GLT Infra and American Tower Corp also moved Delhi HC for payment of Rs 912 crore and Rs 224 crore respectively. GTL Infra also turned off at least one-third of their total sites used by Aircel. Other operators have also stopped accepting incoming calls from Aircel numbers due to unpaid interconnection fee.

At the same time, DoT had moved to encash guarantees given by banks on behalf of Aircel and its two companies, alleging “major breach of terms and conditions” as Aircel filed for insolvency without giving an advance notice to the department. The DoT also said that the telco did not pay spectrum usage charge and license fee last quarter. In this matter, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) gave temporary relief to Aircel, barring DoT from encashing bank guarantees amounting to more Rs 1,200 crore as it waited for the Supreme Court to hear another matter involving the two parties.

With the government as well as the private sector seeking payments, it remains unclear what the resolution would be.

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