The Central government on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that it has decided to withdraw 96 per cent of the Rs 4 lakh crore adjusted gross revenue (AGR) related dues pending against various Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs).
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, told a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has filed an affidavit in the apex court explaining the reason for raising the demand of AGR related dues against the PSUs.
The DoT has sought time from the court to respond to the affidavits filed by telecom companies, including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea Ltd, on payment of AGR related dues by them.
The three-bench judge, which was hearing the matter through video-conferencing, asked about the security and guarantees that can be sought from telecom companies to ensure repayment of AGR dues.
In the last hearing on June 11, the Supreme Court had pulled up the DoT for raising a demand of Rs 4 lakh crore from various PSUs, saying that it was "totally impermissible". The apex court had added that the DoT should consider withdrawing it.
Amongst PSUs, Oil India's dues stand at Rs 48,489 crore, Power Grid at Rs 22,062.65 crore and GAIL at Rs 1.72 lakh crore.
Meanwhile, the apex court has asked telecom companies to provide their financial statements and balance sheets and gave the DoT time until July third week to consider the proposals by the companies on making staggered payment for their AGR dues.
The SC, which was hearing a petition from DoT to allow telecom companies to make staggered payment for their AGR dues, said the telcos needed to pay a "reasonable amount up front". The court deferred the matter till July third week after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the apex court that the Centre should be given more time to assess the mode of payment offered by the telcos.
The DoT had moved the apex court to propose the phased payment of license fee and spectrum usage charges dues worth Rs 1.69 lakh crore by telecom firms spread over 20 years. The department was of the view that the immediate payment would cause likely bankruptcies and could possibly impact crores of customers.
In October last year, the Supreme Court upheld DoT's position on calculating dues after including non-telecom revenues in AGR and had ordered payment of the full amount for the past 15 years within three months.
By Chitranjan Kumar with PTI inputs