AGR issue | Supreme Court pulls up Centre, telcos

The Supreme Court of India. | File  

The Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed the government and telecom majors for doing “self-assessment or reassessment” of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues worth lakhs of crores of rupees as determined by the apex court in its verdict of October 24.

“How can there be self assessment or reassessment of payable dues? Who has permitted this? How is this not sheer contempt?” a visibly angry Justice Arun Mishra asked lawyers in the case.

Also read | AGR dues: full evaluation to take 6 months

Almost five months after winning its legal battle in the Supreme Court against telecom majors including Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel for the payment of AGR dues, the Centre recently did a virtual u-turn by filing an urgent application in court to give the companies a 20-year window to pay the money.

In the application, the government said it had — after “detailed and long-drawn deliberations” — devised a “formula” to soften the blow from the October 24, 2019, judgment of the Supreme Court directing the companies to cough up the AGR dues within three months.

“Do companies feel they are more powerful on earth? If anyone feels they are more powerful or try to influence us they are wrong. Bills were raised and CAG had audited… How can self-assessment be done now?” Justice Mishra asked, before adjourning the case for two weeks.

Justice Mishra said the court could not allow a third round of litigation over the AGR dues. The court said the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had fought for its dues for the past two decades.

“These dues are public money that were not paid for 20 years. Government had fought tooth and nail,” the court observed.

A document annexed to the application shows that the total demand of the DoT as in October 2019 was ₹1,69,048.65 crore from 16 major telecom service providers (TSPs). The payments received till March 6 from these companies is ₹25,901.56 crore. Dues in excess of ₹1.43,000 crore are still outstanding.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 5:23:00 PM |

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