Voda-Idea had asked for a 15-year timeline for payment of AGR dues, the government had said 20 years and the Supreme Court has said 10 years. What are your initial reactions to this verdict?
We had told the court that Vodafone has been through a rough patch in the last 8-10 years and they had lost lot of money and we required a sufficiently long period of time to recoup our losses and carry on. Vodafone was keen to carry on with its operations in India and therefore we requested for 15-20 years but the court it appears has given us 10 years which in the current scenario is not bad. It is definitely okay but one will have to read the judgement because it has many other issues in it but my initial reaction is that Vodafone will survive 10 years.
Survival has been a talking point of the markets today. Vodafone-Idea stock nosedived 19%. It has now rebounded down by about 10%. With the Rs 50,000- crore AGR payout, you are confident that Voda-Idea will survive and make good on its payments?
It will survive. Vodafone is not a fly-by-night operator. It operates in many countries in the world. It has done bonafide business in this country but for many reasons including policy of BoT etc. it has suffered these huge losses but Vodafone sincerely believes that given a proper timeline and proper insensible policies and the fact that India is an emerging market with a large population which requires phones and data, there ought to be three players in the market. It is not advisable to have only two players in a huge market like this. We should be able to pull through.
But it will be tough. Perhaps Vodafone-Idea will have to go through a massive fund raise and that is why the markets are worried. The Supreme Court did ask why Jio is not paying Reliance Communications dues? Is that fair?
I do not want to comment on what the court is asking Jio or not asking Jio. As far as Vodafone is concerned, yes it has had its problems but it should be able to pull through and please do not go by reactions of the market. These are knee-jerk reactions. Nobody in the market has studied the judgement. One has to first study the judgement and then take a calculated view. I have not studied the judgement. I am just giving you my initial reactions on 10 years and that is all. The rest will follow once we read the judgement.
Going forward, what can happen next? Justice Mishra is demitting office. Can it be appealed against at all in larger public interest?
In the Supreme Court when a judgement is delivered, there is no further appeal because there is no court higher and there is no intra-court appeal. But the recourse to a party if it is aggrieved by a judgement of the Supreme Court is to apply for a review. The review goes back to the same bench and if one judge has demitted office, then it will be two of the same judges and maybe a third new judge.
In a review petition, you can point out some errors which are glairing or apparent on the face of the record and review can give you some relief. But whether we can review, ultimately depends on the reading of the judgement. We should not jump the gun by saying we will do this, we will do that. Let us see what the judgement is. Ten years is definitely reasonable. We will look at it but let me answer one question which I forgot to answer. You said that it is very tough, etc, but then life is tough, isn’t it? Covid makes it tougher. But if you ask me, in Covid times, people will use data in telephone more and so this industry will not be as impacted as other consumer industries.