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AGR matters back in Supreme Court

The issue of further payment and the total amount due by telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices is back in the Supreme Court, which will now have to decide on the matter. Last year in September, the Supreme Court had ordered that the companies need to pay their dues over a 10-year period, after paying 10 per cent of the dues upfront by March 31, 2021. Thereafter, the deferred payment cycle would run till 2031 with the 10 per cent amount to be paid by March 31 every year.

However, none of the three companies paid the 10 per cent of the due amount on March 31, 2021. The reasoning of the companies is that whatever they have paid so far is more than 10 per cent so they were not required to pay anything extra by the March 31 deadline. For instance, the total dues of Bharti as per the Department of Telecommunications is Rs 43,980 crore and before the SC’s final order, it had paid Rs 18,004 crore. Similarly, the total dues of Vodafone stood at Rs 58,254 crore and it had paid Rs 7,854 crore. In the case of Tata Teleservices, the total amount is Rs 16,798 crore and it had paid Rs 4,197 crore.

However, the DoT’s interpretation of the order is different. It said that the apex court did not mean 10 per cent of the total dues but 10 per cent of the balance dues, so the operators were required to shell out additional amount.

Now, since the companies have not paid any additional amount, the DoT will file a status report in the SC and wait for further directions.

The matter does not end here, as there’s another point which the companies have raised, which the SC had agreed to hear but not fixed a date so far.

All the three telecom operators have petitioned the apex court seeking modification of its order so that DoT can consider their submissions regarding arithmetical errors in the calculations regarding the AGR dues. For instance, Vodafone Idea in its petition has stated that the calculations made by DoT had errors like double counting, not considering payments already made, not adjusting for interconnect payments, etc. It has said that the excess demand due to these errors is to the tune of Rs 5,932 crore of principal amount, which would have an overall impact of over four times on the total principal amount due to imposition of interest, penalty and interest on penalty. The Indian Express

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