NEW DELHI: India’s big telecom players, except Jio, pleaded before the Supreme Court on Monday for a staggered payment of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues over 15 years after the apex court scotched their mild attempts for recalculation of the Rs 1.6 lakh crore claimed by the department of telecommunications (DoT).
Irked by fresh attempts by telecom service providers to recalculate the AGR dues and the sympathetic stand taken by DoT, a bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah said the “thought should not cross the minds of defaulters even for a second”. “There will be no recalculation of the dues and whatever DoT had told the court earlier will have to be paid,” the bench said.
Worst hit Vodafone Idea, through senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, said the company had no funds to pay right now but promised that it would make good the payments in 15 years. Bharti Airtel’s counsel, senior advocate A M Singhvi, too proposed a 15-year timeline for payment of AGR dues in instalments. Solicitor general Tushar Mehta said a 15-20-year timeline for payment would bode well for the economy. The bench reserved its verdict on the timeline issue.
Mehta said many telecom companies were under insolvency. The bench wondered whether it was a ploy to escape payment of AGR dues and asked DoT to place on record all documents relating to finances of the companies under insolvency.
It posted further hearing for August 10 on issues relating to telecom companies under insolvency.
According to data given by DoT, telecom players such as Bharti Group, Vodafone Idea and Tata Group owed major chunk of AGR dues (see graphic). Quadrant Televentures has an outstanding amount of Rs 189 crore after it paid Rs 69 lakh.
Jio has no dues, the DoT data showed. Telecom scam-tainted companies Loop, S-Tel and Etisalat together owed Rs 604 crore, while BSNL has an outstanding amount of Rs 5,835 crore and MTNL Rs 4,352 crore.
Telecom service providers under insolvency proceedings that owe AGR dues to DoT are Aircel, Reliance Communications/Reliance Telecom and Videocon Telecom. DoT claimed that it had bank guarantees worth Rs 448 crore from Aircel and Rs 1,591 crore from Reliance Communications, but was not able to encash them because of insolvency proceedings. However, it assured the court that there would be no recalculation of AGR dues and whatever was mentioned in the chart submitted to the court would be recovered.