Millennium Post

Don't believe SC's ruling applies to non-telecom PSUs: Pradhan

New Delhi: Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Monday said he believes non-telecom PSUs are not covered by the Supreme Court order that asked telecom licence holders to pay statutory dues after including non-telecom revenues.

Following the October 24 Supreme Court ruling that non-telecom revenues of telecom firms such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea should be included for considering payments of government dues, the telecom department sought Rs 1.83 lakh crore from gas utility GAIL India Ltd, about Rs 48,500 crore from OIL, Rs 21,953.65 crore from Power Grid Corp and Rs 15,020 crore from Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd.

The government's demand from such companies was many times more than their net worth.

"The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has served notice to government oil companies due to some communication gap. We have placed our side after doing all legal consultations," Pradhan told reporters here.

He went on to state that neither of the public sector undertakings (PSUs) slapped with huge demand has any core work in the telecom business.

"Telecom is not the core business of either GAIL or OIL or PowerGrid," he said, adding that they came into the telecom business thinking of multi-utility for internal consumption.

"The overall comment by the Supreme Court, I believe, these two-three PSUs should not come under its ambit... We are holding talks with DoT," he said.

Following the Supreme Court ruling of October 24, 2019 that non-telecom revenues should be included for considering payments of government dues by firms holding any sort of telecom license, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) slapped Rs 2.7 lakh crore on non-telecom firms.

Non-telecom firms such as OIL, GAIL and PowerGrid filed a clarificatory petition on the applicability of the October 24 order on them, but the apex court on February 14 asked them to approach the appropriate authority.

OIL, the nation's second-biggest state-owned oil producer, holds a National Long Distance Service Licence (NLD) with the primary objective of monitoring and operation of its pipeline network.

The surplus bandwidth capacity available with the company was leased out to the telecom operators/other users, on which the company regularly paid the applicable license fee to the DoT.

In case of GAIL, which held an IP-II licence, the DoT assessed Rs 1,83,076 crore as outstanding after including interest and penalty computed on the entire revenue of the company.

PowerGrid, which holds NLD and Internet Service Provider (ISP) licences, was asked to pay Rs 21,953.65 crore (including interest and penalty) for FY 2012-13 to FY 2017-18 by adding revenue related to power transmission and consultancy as 'miscellaneous income' in adjusted gross revenue.

Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd, which had a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) and a Category 'A' ISP, was asked to pay Rs 15,019.97 crore for financial year 2005-06 to 2018-19.

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