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AGR case: Setback for Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Tata Teleservices; SC dismisses all pleas

AGR case: Setback for Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Tata Teleservices; SC dismisses all pleas

The bench of justice LN Rao and Hrishikesh Roy quashed the pleas by telecom Cos which claimed calculation errors in AGR demand

The Supreme Court in September last year gave 10-year time to telecom service providers struggling to pay their outstanding AGR dues to the government The Supreme Court in September last year gave 10-year time to telecom service providers struggling to pay their outstanding AGR dues to the government

The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday dismissed all three applications filed in the AGR case. The bench of justice LN Rao and Hrishikesh Roy quashed the pleas by telecom companies -Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices which claimed calculation errors in AGR demand. 

The judgement was pronounced on the telcos' plea seeking recomputation of AGR dues, dealing a big blow to Vodafone Idea which had linked its viability to reduction of its dues along with other factors.

At 11:21 hours, the share of Bharti Airtel was trading at Rs 554.50, up 1.46 per cent on BSE. It opened 0.45 per cent higher at Rs 549 against the previous close of Rs 546.50 on BSE. The market cap of the firm rose to Rs 3,05,356.72 crore. Vodafone Idea share tanked 15 per cent to hit an intraday low of Rs 7.87 on BSE. The market cap of the company fell to Rs 24,626.23 crore on BSE.

On July 19, the top court heard pleas from the three telcos, reserving its order.

Also Read: AGR issue: Will DoT bite the bullet this time? No, say experts

The top court in September last year had given 10-year time to telecom service providers struggling to pay their outstanding AGR dues to the government. During the hearing on July 19, a bench headed by Justice L.N. Rao referred to the earlier order passed by the apex court in the matter and observed that they said no re-assessment of AGR-related dues can be done.

However, the firms submitted that arithmetical errors can be rectified and there are cases of duplication of entries.  

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Vodafone Idea, said they were not blaming the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for it as there are arithmetical entries. He said they want to place the entries before the department so that they can re-consider it.  

The bench also observed that the top court had earlier said there can't be any re-assessment.

Also Read: SC reserves order on Airtel, Voda Idea's pleas in AGR case

AGR case: What is it and why the dispute?

The Supreme Court in the past gave two big judgements on the long-standing AGR issue. In October 2019, it asked telcos to pay Rs 1.69 lakh crore AGR dues to DoT. When telcos sought relief on the payments, the court asked them to pay dues in 10 instalments.

However, in the second order passed on September 2020, the court had categorically said that the telcos shall not raise any dispute, and any re-assessment will not be allowed.

Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices had filed individual applications before the Supreme Court in January this year (2021) seeking clarification, modification or recall of its previous AGR judgment.

The telcos said there were clerical or arithmetic errors in DoT's calculations of AGR, and the actual amount due was much lesser. As per DoT's calculations, the three telcos are supposed to pay Rs 1,02,234 crore.

Airtel has already paid Rs 18,004 crore (out of Rs 43,980 crore demanded) while Vodafone Idea has paid Rs 7,854 crore (out of Rs 58,254 crore). Airtel has self-assessed its dues at Rs 18,004 crore, just 41 per cent of DoT estimates whereas Vodafone Idea self-assessed its dues at Rs 25,000 crore, about 43 per cent of DoT's demand.