AGR case: SC dismisses plea by Airtel, Vodafone Idea seeking correction of errors


India, All India

Supreme Court had earlier on July 19 reserved its order

The Supreme Court had in its earlier judgment granted a period of 10 years to clear their pending AGR dues. (Photo: PTI/File)

New Delhi: In a major setback for big telecom companies, the Supreme Court of India on Friday dismissed all the applications filed by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea seeking a direction for correction of errors in Adjusted Gross Revenue calculation.

A bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao pronounced the judgment dismissing the plea of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, for seeking direction for correction of errors in Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) calculation.

"We dismiss all the applications," Justice Rao said, in his verdict.
After due consideration and keeping in view the facts and figures of the cases the Supreme Court did not find any merit in the prayers of the telecom companies -- Airtel and Vodafone Idea and dismissed their applications.

Supreme Court had earlier on July 19, reserved its order after Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea had submitted to the Apex Court and complained that there were errors in the AGR calculation.

Senior lawyer and former Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Vodafone Idea, had submitted to the Apex Court, in the last hearing, "the issue was going up and down as AGR definition was not clear. We had succeeded in Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, but the judgment was set aside. Then we were imposed entire liability along with interest and penalty. Dues around Rs 58,000 crores".

While explaining to the court regarding the wrong entry, Rohatgi had cited an example stating that in one of the entries, the actual payment made was Rs 155 crores, but the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) considered it as the final and the total is around Rs 153.2 crores.

"I have paid Rs 7,854 crore. I have complied with the undertaking to pay, which I have done," Rohatgi for Vodafone Idea had said.

"I am not blaming DoT, not asking for a review," Rohtagi had told the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, while citing its earlier order, asked Rohatgi and said that the reassessment and reevaluation can't be done, in this case, the earlier judgment said so.

Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, a senior lawyer for Airtel, in the last hearing, said that there is duplication. Several reports, audits, and checks are reported. Purely by oversight, some payments/deductions are not taken into consideration by the DoT.

"We are not blaming the department, which has not been able to take any decision with respect to our three categories," Dr. Singhvi said and made it clear to the apex court that "according to us, we have paid much more than 10%, around Rs 18,400 odd crores".

Dr. Singhvi said, "We are fully complying with the SC judgment. Now I don't want to pay thousands of crores due to these errors (of DOT)".

The Supreme Court had in its judgment in September last year granted telecom companies including Airtel Bharti, Vodafone Idea, etc a period of 10 years to clear their pending AGR dues to the Central government.

The top court had, on July 20, reserved its order on the timeline for the payment of AGR dues by telecom companies after observing that the request of telecom companies seeking 15 to 20 years for the payment of AGR dues in a staggered manner was unreasonable.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by the Central government through the DoT seeking the approval of a formula allowing telecom service providers to make annual installments of unpaid or remaining AGR dues in the next 15-20 years.