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SC hearing on telecoms' AGR dues on June 11: Where does the case stand?

SC hearing on telecoms' AGR dues on June 11: Where does the case stand?

SC hearing on telecoms' AGR dues on June 11: Where does the case stand?
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By Moneycontrol News Jun 11, 2020 11:07:36 AM IST (Published)

The case will be heard today by a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and including Justices MR Shah and S Abdul Nazeer

The Supreme Court is set to conduct a hearing on the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) case on June 11. This hearing comes after the one held on March 18, where the apex court pulled up the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for allowing telcos to self-assess payable dues.

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The case will be heard by a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and including Justices MR Shah and S Abdul Nazeer. The same bench, on March 18, held that “no further objections would be allowed against payable dues.”
On March 16, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the DoT had sought staggered payment over 20 years of AGR dues by telecom companies. The plea also asked that telcos not be charged a penalty and interests on penalty and principal beyond the date of the judgement.
The hearing is likely to address the solicitor general’s plea seeking reasonable time to resolve payments.
Company reports and Lok Sabha submissions give an idea of how much is at stake.
For Bharti Airtel, the AGR dues as per DoT is Rs 35,500 crore whereas it is Rs 13,000 crore as per the company's self assessment. So far, it has paid Rs 18,800 crore. As per DoT, it still has to pay Rs 17,500 crore.
For Vodafone Idea, DoT claims that the remaining payable is Rs 53,000 crore while the company claims it is Rs 21,500 crore. So far, the company has paid Rs 6,900 crore. As per DoT, it still has to pay Rs 46,100 crore.
Here is a timeline of the case so far:
  • The DoT in October 2019 issued bills to major telecom operators seeking payment of licensing and spectrum dues as per the AGR.
  • The companies included telcos such Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel, BSNL and non-telcos which had revenues from telecommunication services such as ONGC and SAIL, etc.
  • Telcos disputed the adjusted amount demanded by the Centre, post which the DoT approached the Supreme Court for redressal of the matter.
  • The apex court had on October 24, 2019, ruled that the statutory dues need to be calculated by including non-telecom revenues in the AGR of telecom companies. It had upheld the DoT's definition of AGR and termed "frivolous" the nature of objections raised by the telecom service providers.
  • The court had ordered telcos to clear total dues of Rs 1.47 lakh crore in line with the telecom department's estimate.
  • After this, many telcos let the date slip by citing economic slowdown and poor finances, due to which the SC in February 2020 rapped DoT and telcos for ignoring court orders
  • The SC on March 18 held that no further arguments against the dues owed would be heard
  • Vodafone Idea, Tata Teleservices and Bharti Airtel owe the bulk of the dues.
  • Airtel has already paid Rs 13,000 crore, but this is less than half of the company’s estimated liabilities
  • Meanwhile, Vodafone has so far paid Rs 3,500 crore out of the "self-assessed" liability of Rs 21,533 crore it estimates it owes, but much lower than the government demand.
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