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Updated on: Friday, July 23, 2021, 01:52 PM IST

AGR case: Supreme Court dismisses plea by Bharti Airtel, Voda Idea seeking correction; Vodafone shares slip further

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said the judiciary must remain free from political pressures and influences | PTI

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said the judiciary must remain free from political pressures and influences | PTI

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The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the pleas of telecom companies seeking recomputation of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues demanded by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

A bench headed by Justice L. Nageswara Rao said all applications dismissed. On Monday, the apex court already said it would pass its order on applications filed by -- Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Tele Services Ltd -- alleging arithmetical errors in calculation of AGR dues payable by them.

The Supreme Court had previously observed that on three occasions the apex court had held that there is no room for recomputation of AGR demand.

The top court, citing an earlier order in the matter, had noted the order clearly point out that no re-assessment of AGR related dues can be done. The telcos submitted that arithmetical errors can be rectified and there are cases of duplication of entries.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Vodafone Idea, had submitted they were not blaming the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for it, and there are arithmetical entries. Rohatgi added that they want to bring these errors to the attention of concerned department, for their rectification.

The bench reiterated that the apex court order had made it clear that there can't be any re-assessment.

Rohatgi responded figures are "not cast in stone" and added, tribunals don't have the power of review but they can correct arithmetical errors. He submitted that they were not seeking any extension of time.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing Tata Tele Services Ltd, submitted rectification of errors in calculation can be done.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted he has not received any instructions from the DoT on allowing correction of errors.

The bench had said that it has said not just once, but twice and thrice that AGR demand can't be recomputed.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, representing Airtel, said there are cases of duplication and also of payments made but not accounted for. He submitted, "I don't want to pay thousands of crores on account of these errors".

Mehta said he can take instructions on this within two days. "It may be little hazardous for me to make statement without taking instructions..", said Mehta.

In September last year, the top court had given 10 years' time to telcos, who were struggling to pay Rs 93,520 crore in AGR dues outstanding amount to the government.

The apex court had said that telecom operators shall make the payment of 10 per cent of the total dues as demanded by DoT by March 31, 2021. The bench had said the rest of the amount was to be paid in yearly instalments commencing from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2031.

'SC quashing does not bode well for sector'

Sabyasachi Majumdar, Senior Vice President & Group Head, ICRA, said, "The Supreme court has quashed the AGR penalty re-computation request of the telcos, stating that the earlier order clearly states that no-assessment can be done. This will not bode well for the recovery in the sector and is likely to protract the same, given the elevated debt levels and very low tariffs. The industry is staring at high commitments towards debt repayments and DoT payments in the coming few quarters, with next major payments due in March-April 2022. In order to meet these, the industry participants will have to look for avenues of fundraising and/or asset monetisation, in addition to focus on substantially improving the ARPU levels".

Vodafone shares slip further

At 11 AM, shares of Bharti Airtel was up Rs 8.15 or 1.49 percent up at Rs 554.65. Vodafone shares were down Rs 8.23 or 11.03 percent at Rs (−)1.02 share apiece.

(With IANS inputs)

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Published on: Friday, July 23, 2021, 11:08 AM IST
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