The Supreme Court Monday asked Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom) and Reliance Jio to take a decision by January 11 over the settlement of past dues to DoT, which is yet to give clearance to their spectrum sale deal. It also asked RJio to furnish an undertaking to abide by the spectrum trade guidelines, to which the company said that it cannot take this risk knowing the problems faced with regard to the past dues.
A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Sharan said, "You both (RCom and RJio) sit together and settle the issue among yourselves by January 11. Till you do not settle among yourselves, we can't do anything."
The apex court was hearing a contempt petition filed by RCoM alleging that the Department of Telecom (DoT) has failed to furnish a no-objection certificate (NoC) clearing its spectrum sale deal with RJio even after the court had directed it to do so.
The bench said that a letter written by Reliance Jio to DoT seeking clarity on payment of past liability of RCom is "on the teeth of the guidelines".
At the outset, the bench said that without going into the nitty-gritty of the case, it wants RJio to furnish an undertaking that it will abide by the spectrum sale guidelines.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for RJio, said: "There are various stages of the deal. Knowing the problems with prior dues and of furnishing a guarantee, it can't take the risk."
He said that "they (DoT and RCom) have to settle among themselves so that it is not on me to pay the liabilities after the deal".
Salve added that RJio can abide by the guidelines provided RCom deposits a bank guarantee.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for RCom, said that Reliance Jio will not be liable for past liabilities.
Sibal said the company will deal with its past liabilities and not look to RJio for any future demands.
To this, the bench said it will be better that both the parties resolve the issue by January 11.
On November 30 last year, the apex court had asked DoT to give NoC to RCom to sell its spectrum to Reliance Jio, provided a corporate guarantee of Rs 1,400 crore is furnished by its group firm in favour of government by December 2, 2018.
The top court had said that the NoC would be given to RCom, a Anil Ambani group firm, by the DoT if Reliance Realty furnishes the corporate guarantee within two days.
After the corporate guarantee is furnished, the DoT would grant NoC within seven days thereafter, it had said.
The top court's order had come on a plea filed by DoT against the order of Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) which had allowed RCom to sell spectrum to Reliance Jio without providing the bank guarantee of around Rs 2,900 crore to the DoT.
The TDSAT, in its last month order, had rejected DoT's plea seeking bank guarantee of around Rs 2,900 crore before it permits sale of RCom spectrum to Reliance Jio.
RCom has signed an agreement with Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd to sell its spectrum and other telecom assets for an estimated Rs 25,000 crore and partially clear its debt of about Rs 46,000 crore.