On 7th January 2021, Bharti Airtel, the Indian multinational telecommunications services company has moved an application before the Supreme Court seeking a limited clarification/modification of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues owed to the Department of Telecommunications as well as a recall of previous orders which allowed the Respondent to appeal against a judgment of TDSAT.
In a petition filed on 31 December 2020, Bharti Airtel prayed that the SC “modify/clarify/recall the orders” dated 18 March 2020, which had ruled that the final amount due and payable by Airtel was `43,980 crore, an amount mentioned in an annexure filed along with the DoT’s modification application.
“Permit the respondent to proceed with and finalize the assessments after taking into account the representations made by the applicants in this respect and thereby determine the total amount due and payable,” Airtel’s petition said.
The Application raises “correction of the basic and arithmetic errors in the amounts directed to be paid”, for instance, duplication in revenue addition. Errors of omission have been highlighted such as Deduction Verification Report (DVR) received from Circle CCAs was missed by the Respondent while raising a demand.
“It is submitted that the impact of such errors results in a significant increase in the amounts being claimed by the Respondent, as for every Re. 1 increase in the principal amount, the levy of interest, penalty, and interest on penalty results in the amount being claimed by the Respondent increasing by up to Rs. 8/-, depending on the year to which it pertains”.
In light of the above, the Application prays for orders dated 18 March 2020 and 1 September 2020, to modified/clarified/recalled to the extent that they hold that the amount of Rs. 43,890 crores are the final amount due and payable by the Applicants. Further, it seeks for the Respondent to proceed with finalizing the assessments after taking into account the representations made by the Applicant. It was reported in the Economic Times that Vodafone Idea has also moved the Supreme Court to seek a modification on the orders of the Apex Court which held that Rs. 58, 400 crores would be the final AGR which must be deposited to the DoT. Other telecom companies are yet to file similar Applications.
So far, Bharti Airtel has paid Rs 18,004 crore of its dues, while Vodafone Idea has paid Rs 7,854 crore, and according to the earlier SC order, they have to still pay the DoT another Rs 25,976 crore and Rs 50,400 crore respectively. Bharti Airtel did not respond to queries on the matter.
On the other hand, Vodafone Idea (Vi) has also moved a similar application before the Supreme Court seeking modification of orders over the Rs 58,400 crore adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues claimed from it by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
The telco, which has the highest bill to pay among peers, has cited “arithmetical errors in the government’s calculations” as a reason for seeking the modification, stated the sources.
Earlier on 1st September 2020, the Apex Court gave telecom companies 10 years to repay their AGR dues, putting an end to a case that was being watched closely for its implications for the telecommunications sector.
The bench comprising of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer, and MR Shah has while granting a 10-year timeframe i.e., from 1st April 2021 to 31st March 2031, directed the telcos to pay 10 percent of the AGR dues upfront.