One-time spectrum fee issue: Bombay HC grants Bharti Airtel relief till February 24

The Bombay High Court on Monday granted relief to Bharti Airtel till February 24, after the company sought the judiciary's intervention against a government order to pay a hefty one-time spectrum fee. Last week, the court had given a similar ruling in case of Idea Cellular, giving it time till March 1.

Bharti Airtel had moved the HC after the Department of Telecommunications issued notices to all operators earlier this month, directing them to pay a retrospective one-time fee on the existing airwaves they hold. According to reports, as per the government directive, Bharti has been asked to pay a surcharge of about R5,200 crore, while Idea Cellular was slapped with a fee of R2, 000 crore. Other telecom companies are also expected to appeal against the government's directive, as they believe it violated the terms of their licence agreements.

The government wants telecom companies to pay a one-time charge on spectrum exceeding 6.2 MHz from July 2008 to December 2012, by which it expects to raise R21,000 crore. The government has said that surcharges on long-established carriers are aimed at creating a level-playing field between old and new operators.

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