BSNL and MTNL Revival Package from PMO Runs into Legal Snag

BSNL and MTNL, both the state-led telecom operators have been in a financially stifling situation and are awaiting a revival package from the government

By August 29th, 2019 AT 7:50 PM
Highlights
  • The DoT is not ready to move forward without examining legal implications of the 2012 SC order
  • BSNL has been delaying salaries of its employees for the third time this year now

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), the two state-led telecom operator which were awaiting a revival package from the government have run into legal troubles in the process. According to a new ET Telecom report, the revival package which is driven by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) would need to be legally monitored from the Solicitor General of India. Follow this, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) would take the Cabinet note. Recently, PM Modi’s Cabinet has taken some big-ticket economic decisions. At the same time, BSNL’s 200,000 people strong workforce remains in distress as the employees are being delayed their salaries.

DoT Asked to Examine Legal Implications of SC Order

An official aware of the matter remarked, “The DoT is awaiting a legal vetting from the Solicitor General of India on whether the 4G spectrum can be allocated administratively to the two state-owned telecom service providers.” The person also added the nod from the cabinet would only be taken after this. Back in June this year, the committee headed by Cabinet secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha had already asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to examine the legal implications of the allocation of 4G radio waves to the state-led telecom operators, MTNL and BSNL.

As per a note seen by ET, the high-level committee had then recommended that any executive arrangement offering 4G frequencies to BSNL or MTNL would only go through when the legal implications of such a move have been examined. To recall, back in 2012, the Supreme Court in its landmark verdict had quashed 122 licenses. The SC also noted at that time that the state was duty-bound to go through a non-discriminatory method of an auction’ when it had to transfer or alienate the natural resources.

BSNL Likely to Delay Salaries for August Month

Since there is no legal view currently on the back of the Supreme Court order, the department has no ground to move on. The questions sent from Anshu Prakash did not see any answers. The principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Nripendra Misra sat at the meeting which was set up to restructure the two ailing telecom operators. The meeting also saw the presence of the Niti Aayog chief executive Amitabh Kant, Secretary— Economic Affairs Atanu Chakraborty and Secretary— Expenditure Girish Chandra Murmu.

It is crucial to note that the presence of 4G spectrum is vital for the survival of both BSNL and MTNL. The lack of 4G network is what has affected the telecom operators and has pushed the two companies to the widening losses. Also, BSNL has been caught in such a troubling situation that it is likely that BSNL employees will again have to wait for their salaries. As per a new source, BSNL is likely to delay its employee salaries for the August month by a week. This is bound to affect approximately 163,000 BSNL employees.

Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.

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