AGR review petitions filed by telecom companies dismissed by Supreme Court

In a major blow to the top telecom operators in India, the Supreme Court has today dismissed review petitions from Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and Tata Teleservices seeking review of its earlier which asked them to pay ₹1.47 lakh crore in past statutory dues by January 23.

Earlier, in October last year, Supreme Court riled that statutory dues need to be calculated by including non-telecom revenues in adjusted gross revenues (AGR) of telcos. Now, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, S A Nazeer and M R Shah in-chamber hearing did not find merit in the review plea and have dismissed it.

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Last November, the companies had sought a limited review of the ruling in the hope of softening the AGR blow, and had not challenged the entire SC order or sought an extension of the payment deadline.

The three telcos had filed separate petitions in the court and were seeking a review of penalties and interest on the dues, and had also questioned some components of non-core items being included while computing AGR of telcos.

In November, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had told Parliament that the telecom companies owe the government as much as ₹1.47 trillion in past statutory dues. He had added that there is no proposal at present to waive interest and penalties on such dues.

In Lok Sabha, he said that the companies own ₹92,642 crore in unpaid licence fee, and another ₹55,054 crore in outstanding spectrum usage charges. DoT had said that Airtel owed ₹21,682.13 crore while Vodafone owed ₹19,823.71 crore. On the other hand, Reliance Communications owed ₹16,456.47 crore. As for state-owned companies, BSNL owed ₹2,098.72 crore and MTNL ₹2,537.48 crore.