Delhi HC notice to centre over Airtel’s plea for refund of over Rs2,400 crore licence fee
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New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Monday sought the centre’s response to a plea by Bharti Airtel Ltd seeking a refund of Rs.2,495.87 crore paid by the company to the department of telecommunications (DoT) under an arbitral award on a licence fee dispute.
The total refund amount of Rs.2,495.87 sought by Airtel includes an interest component of Rs.399.92 crore.
A bench headed by Delhi high court chief justice G. Rohini issued a notice to the centre and held that the main question for determination was whether Airtel was entitled to the licence fee refund or not.
The court was hearing the telecom company’s appeal against an order passed by Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw on 11 May under which Airtel was denied a refund of the licence fee it paid for the Punjab telecom circle from April 1996 to March 1998.
Airtel had initially refused to deposit the fee amount for the 1996-98 period as it claimed that the centre had “arbitrarily and illegally terminated its licence during that period”, following which it opted for arbitration with DoT.
At the time of arbitration, the company had deposited the licence fee amount inclusive of interest on the understanding that the amount would be refunded in case the dispute is decided in its favour.
The arbitrator dismissed Airtel’s refund claim, a ruling against which the company moved the Delhi high court.
On 14 September 2012, the arbitral award was set aside. This has been challenged by DoT and is being heard by another bench.
As the arbitral award had been set aside, Airtel sought a refund of the licence fee, which was denied under Justice Endlaw’s order of 11 May.
The contention of the telecom company that the order setting aside the arbitral award operated as a money decree was rejected and it was refused refund of the licence fee.
The case will be heard next on 29 August.