New Delhi: The telecom ministry has got an ex-parte stay from the Delhi High Court on merger between Idea Cellular and Spice, which the Aditya Birla group firm said it will oppose as the (Department of Telecommunication) DoT was trying to cover its “inefficiencies”.
“The inexplicable delay by DoT in clearing the licence amendment has, of course, harmed Idea and consumer interest but crucially it has caused, and continues to cause, loss of crores of revenue to the exchequer every passing week.
“Apparently to cover for its inefficiencies, DoT is now indulging in duplicity and muscle-flexing. Idea will resist and not be bullied,” the company said in a response to the ex-parte order obtained by DoT and served to Idea.
Idea officials confirmed receipt of an ex-parte order obtained by DoT against merger with Spice. The merger with Spice in six circles was announced in June 2008 and the copy of the same was provided to the DoT,the company said.
Recently, DoT had issued a cancellation order to Idea for the overlapping of licences in the same circle after the merger between Idea and Spice.
“Idea way back in July 2008 unconditionally offered to surrender overlapping licences if policy so required,” the company said.
The response added that what Idea had applied for in January 2010, as per the DoT’s own earlier advice, would have had led to the government keeping Rs 843 crore entry fee and Idea getting nothing in return.
Idea is facing charges of violation of terms and conditions of licence by retaining overlapping licences even as the company claimed that it never wanted to retain the unused spectrum and had offered to surrender overlapped licences.
Idea claimed that in a meeting in August 2008, DoT advised the company that it should obtain necessary court approvals, and then approach the DoT for merger of licences.
This according to DoT was admissible as per policy, and incidentally had exactly the same effect as surrender, since neither the overlapping licences nor spectrum were ever used.
Both Idea and the DoT acted as such, but when Idea approached the DoT for licence amendment after the courts approved merger, the DoT exhibited incoherence at first, and lately high handedness by way of selectively withholding 3G spectrum, issuing show cause and demand notices, and now obtaining an ex parte order on a merger approved over a year ago, officials said.
This is nothing but an act to cover its own (DoT’s) inefficiencies to grant approval for the merger of Idea with Spice, they added.