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NCLAT dismisses DoT's plea in Aircel licence moratorium matter citing delay in appeal

New Delhi: The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) has dismissed the telecom department's plea citing delay in appeal against the NCLT order which held that the spectrum and licence of debt-ridden Aircel cannot be taken away during the insolvency resolution period.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had appealed against an order of the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

In its plea, the DoT raised the issue as whether licence/spectrum to run a telecom company could be subject to moratorium during the insolvency proceedings or not.

However, a three-member bench of the NCLAT held that the petition filed by the DoT was time barred under the provisions of Section 61 of the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

Under the IBC, any appeal against order passed by the NCLT could be filed before the appellate tribunal within 30 days and the delay which can be condoned for reasonable cause in the NCLAT is only 15 days.

"This appeal was presented on February 20, 2020. Even giving the longest rope, if we calculate the period from December 20, 2019, the appeal is presented consuming 61 days. This being so, the appeal is time barred and for want of jurisdiction, we cannot entertain the appeal," said NCLAT.

"The appeal is dismissed as time barred," it said.

The order was passed by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) on November 27, 2019.

The NCLT order had come over the plea filed by the resolution professional of the company over apprehension that its license and spectrum could be suspended after DoT issued demand notice

Though, the NCLT in its order accepted that licence and spectrum is an asset of DoT and Aircel has no right of ownership but said that clauses of moratorium are "squarely applicable on this Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process Proceedings, hence need not be interrupted or hampered by any authority."

The NCLT further said that intent of IBC is prescribed to maximize the assets of the company as well as to protect the value so as to get good resolution plan for its revival.

"... within the scope and ambit of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 hereby instruct the concerned DoT authority not to make any attempt to cancel the impugned license issued in favour of the debtor company," it said.

The NCLT had in March, 2018 admitted Aircel's insolvency plea. Aircel and its subsidiaries Aircel Cellular and Dishnet Wireless together owe around Rs 50,000 crore to creditors.

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