In the Supreme Court, a group of 300 employees of Aircel and its subsidiary Dishnet Wireless have filed a contempt petition against Bharti Airtel, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Bharti Hexacom since they could not furnish the bank guarantees worth Rs 453 crores. As per an ET Telecom report, the employees filed the petition on Wednesday and urged the Apex Court to “initiate contempt proceedings”. This time in the crosshair, it is the Department of Telecommunications, Airtel and its subsidiary and the employees have said that these parties have committed a “contumacious act” by not returning the bank guarantees, following an order passed by the court back in November last year.
Employees in Distress After Non-Payment of Salaries
In the petition filed by the employees of Aircel, they noted that the officers of the companies willfully disobeyed the court order. The employees further added in their appeal and asked the Supreme Court to direct Airtel to refund bank guarantees with penal interest and fight the contempt petition by depositing the amount. The employees noted that failing to do so, would result in their properties and bank accounts being attached “to the extent of the aforesaid amount.” With the matter being sub-judice, Bharti Airtel did not make any comments on the situation.
To recall, Airtel had paid Rs 298 crore in cash along with Rs 453 crore of bank guarantees to the DoT on behalf on the cash-strained telco Aircel, thus adjusting the amount against its Rs 3,500 crore deal to buy Aircel’s spectrum. However, now the bank guarantees have lapsed, and as per the order of the Supreme Court, now Bharti Airtel will have to pay Rs 453 crore to Aircel. Also, DoT has been given the period till January 25th to return Rs 298 crore to Aircel.
Aircel Looking for Ways to Pare Rs 19,000 Crore Debt
It is also worth noting that due to the cash-stricken situation of the insolvent telecom operator, its employees are in deep financial distress, as has been pointed out on the petition as well. Around 3,000 employees of Dishnet wireless and Aircel have deeply been impacted due to non-payment of salaries and this further disobedience on the Supreme Court order of November 28, has increased the woes of these employees and added to their troubles.
Currently, Aircel is being run by the resolution professional appointed by Deloitte, under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. As part of its current plans, the company is looking for funds to restart operations. The telco is also looking at ways to sell its assets and businesses to somehow pare a part of its Rs 19,000 crore debt which it owes to its financial lenders. On top of that, the company has not been able to pay salaries to its employees and is also struggling to keep the day to day operations running