No relief for telcos; to pay ₹1.47 lakh-cr.

Supreme Court dismisses review petitions filed by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and others

January 16, 2020 06:07 pm | Updated January 17, 2020 02:23 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court observed that the telecom service providers were raising frivolous objections.

The Supreme Court observed that the telecom service providers were raising frivolous objections.

A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Arun Mishra, on Thursday, dismissed petitions filed by telecom companies , including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, for a review of its October 2019 judgment upholding the recovery of past dues amounting to ₹1.47 lakh crore from them. The recovery by the government was based on adjusted gross revenue of about ₹92,000 crore.

The review petitions were rejected by the Bench, also comprising Justices Abdul S. Nazeer and M.R. Shah, in their chambers.

The Bench found no merit in the review petitions and rejected a plea for an open court hearing.

"Applications for hearing in open Court/oral hearing are rejected. Having perused the Review Petitions and the connected papers with meticulous care, we do not find any justifiable reason to entertain the review petitions. The Review Petitions are, accordingly, dismissed. Pending application(s), if any, shall stand disposed of," the Supreme Court observed in a short order.

On October 24 last year, the Supreme Court dealt a huge blow to telecom service providers when it upheld the Department of Telecom's (DoT) move to recover adjusted gross revenue (AGR) of about ₹92,000 crore from them.

The Bench had said the telecom sector had long reaped the fruits of the Centre’s liberalised mode of payment by revenue sharing regime. “The sector has benefited immensely under the scheme, as is apparent from the gross revenue trend from 2004 to 2015,” Justice Mishra had written, adding the service providers, in turn, failed to fulfil their obligations to the government and instead raised frivolous objections.

“The telecom service providers, in spite of the financial benefits of the package, started to ensure that they do not pay the licence fee to the public exchequer based on an agreed AGR,” the Supreme Court had observed in a 153-page judgment. The court had dismissed the telecom service providers’ objection to the government's formulation of AGR.

The judgment had said the gross revenue would be inclusive of installation charges, late fees, sale proceeds of handsets (or any other terminal equipment etc.), revenue on account of interest, dividend, value-added services, supplementary services, access or interconnection charges, roaming charges, revenue from permissible sharing of infrastructure and any other miscellaneous revenue, without any set-off for related item of expense.

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