Millennium Post

Will not hear arguments 'even for a second': SC tells telcos

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday said it will not hear "even for a second" arguments on re-assessment of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) related dues of telecom companies which run into about Rs 1.6 lakh crore.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah reserved verdict on the issue of timeline for staggered payment of AGR-related dues by telecom companies.

When issue of re-calculation of the dues was raised, the bench shot back: We will not hear arguments for re-assessment (of AGR related dues) even for a second.

The bench also observed that 15 or 20 years is not a reasonable time period and the companies should come forward with appropriate time frame.

The Centre had earlier urged the top court that up to 20 years be given to telecom companies for the payment of dues in staggered manner.

The top court further said that it would examine bona fides of some telecom companies going into insolvency.

On June 18, the top court was informed by the Centre that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has decided to withdraw 96 per cent of the Rs 4 lakh crore demand for AGR related dues raised against non-telecom PSUs like GAIL.

The court had however asked the private telecom companies including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea to come out with a reasonable payment plan, make some payment to show their bona fide and file their books of accounts for the last 10 years.

During the hearing on Monday, the bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the DoT, as to how the government intends to secure the AGR related dues.

When the counsel appearing for one of the telecom companies disputed the DoT's calculation of AGR related dues and said that the figures have to be checked, the bench shot back: Everybody is disputing the dues. Tell us only the instalment part and the time (for payment of dues). What is happening in this country. We will not permit this to happen in this country.

We have decided the definition of AGR and based on that, demands have been raised by the DoT and we are not going to reopen this .

The top court has posted the matter for further hearing on August 10 on the issue related to some telecom firms going into insolvency.

The apex court had in October 2019 delivered the verdict on the AGR issue for calculating government dues of telecom companies such as licence fee and spectrum usage charges.

After the top court had rejected pleas by Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices seeking review of the judgement which widened the definition of AGR by including non-telecom revenues, the DoT had in March moved a plea seeking staggered payment over 20 years.

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