Bharti AirtelNSE 0.84 % has begun the process of paying Aircel, bringing relief to the bankrupt telco that needs money to maintain assets and pay 3,000 employees. It has also potentially staved off contempt proceedings in Supreme Court. While sources at Airtel say the entire due amount has been released, officials at Aircel say only Rs 341 crore of the Rs 453 crore has been received. "Airtel remains in contempt of court as it has not paid the entire amount and is setting off Rs 112 crore illegally,” said an Aircel official.
The two companies have been locked in a year-long battle. The Supreme Court had ordered Airtel to make the payment in November and on Wednesday had allowed 300 Aircel employees to file a contempt case against the Sunil Mittal-owned telco, its unit Bharti Hexacom and the telecom department (DoT) for not returning the amount.
Airtel’s lawyer said the payment has been released in compliance with the top court’s order. “The amount owed to Aircel entities was not paid till now since the bank guarantees were with DoT, which had a lien and the ability to encash them,” the lawyer told ET. “Cancellation of the bank guarantees by court has extinguished DoT’s right to encash them, the primary reason why the money was not paid by Airtel till now.”