Udayavni Special

AGR dues payable by telcos can’t be subject matter of any future litigation: SC


Team Udayavani, Jul 24, 2021, 5:05 PM IST

New Delhi: The Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) related dues payable by telecom majors, including Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, cannot be a subject matter of any future litigation, the Supreme Court has said.

A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao stated this while dismissing the plea of telcos seeking rectification of alleged errors in the calculation of AGR.

The top court said the dispute relating to AGR has been pending in courts for a very long period of time and the dues payable by TSPs (Telecom Service Providers) cannot be the subject matter of any future litigation.

It said there is no room for any doubt from the perusal of the earlier judgment dated September 1, 2020 with respect to this court entertaining any application for altering the AGR dues of the TSPs.

The court said that issues concerning the ambit of proceedings under Section 18 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 in relation to spectrum, the manner in which payment has to be made by and liabilities apportioned between the TSPs in case of spectrum sharing and spectrum trading, ”with which we are not concerned in these Applications”, were also dealt with in its judgment dated September 1, 2020 The telecom companies had pleaded before the apex court that arithmetical ”errors” in the calculation be rectified and claimed there were cases of duplication of entries.

“Though these applications appear to be innocuous at first blush, the end result of the relief sought by the applicants in the guise of correction or rectification of the defects or arithmetical errors in the calculation of AGR dues, would be recalculation which would amount to the AGR dues, as specified in the order of this Court dated July 20, 2020, being altered. “The dispute relating to AGR dues had remained pending in courts for a very long period of time and bearing this in mind, this Court was at pains to emphasise, at the cost of repetition, that the AGR dues payable by TSPs cannot be the subject matter of any future litigation,” the bench also comprising justices S A Nazeer and M R Shah said.

The apex court said the order dated July 20, 2020 makes it clear that there is no scope for any recalculation/re-computation of AGR dues. “Even at the time of passing of the order dated July 20, 2020, an attempt was made to seek recalculation and reassessment, as recorded in the order, which was rejected by this Court outright,” the bench said.

The top court in September last year had given a time period of 10 years to telecom service providers struggling to pay Rs 93,520 crores of AGR-related dues to clear their outstanding amount to the government.

During the hearing on the applications on July 19, the bench had referred to an earlier order passed by the apex court in the matter and observed that it said no re-assessment of AGR-related dues can be done.

One of the lawyers representing a telecom firm had contended that they were not blaming the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for it as there are arithmetical entries and they want to place the entries before the department so that they can re-consider it.

In its September last year order, the apex court had said that telecom operators shall make the payment of 10 percent of the total dues as demanded by the DoT by March 31, 2021, and the rest amount to be paid in yearly installments commencing from April 1, 2021, to March 31, 2031.

The top court, which had held that demand raised by the DoT in respect of AGR dues will be final, had said there shall be no dispute raised by the telcos and there shall not be any re-assessment.

The apex court had in October 2019 delivered its verdict on the AGR issue.

The DoT in March last year had moved a plea in the top court seeking permission for allowing staggered payment of the dues by the telcos over a period of 20 years.

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