Telecos seek open court hearing in SC of pleas on AGR

Telecom giants like Bharti Airtel and many others have sought an open court hearing regarding recovery of past dues amounting to crores by telecom service providers (Reuters Photo)

Telecom majors, including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, on Wednesday, asked the Supreme Court to grant an open court hearing on their review petitions against direction on the recovery of past adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues amounting to Rs 1.47 lakh crore.

When petitioners advocates mentioned their plea of open court hearing before a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, who said he will discuss with Chief Justice S A Bobde and announce the decision on Thursday.

If the open court hearing granted, telecom companies, reeling under huge debt, will get an opportunity to convince the bench to reconsider its decision.

Expecting relief from the top court, telecom stocks reacted positively. Shares of Vodafone Idea was trading at Rs 6.50 up 8.33 % and  Bharti Airtel appreciated 3.09 % to trade at Rs 458.85 on the NSE.

The Apex Court on October 24 upheld the definition of AGR provided by the Department of Telecom.

In an affidavit filed earlier in the top court, the DoT said Airtel owed Rs 21,682.13 crore as a licence fee to the government and dues from Vodafone totaled Rs 19,823.71 crore, while Reliance Communications owed Rs 16,456.47 crore. BSNL owed Rs 2,098.72 crore, and MTNL Rs 2,537.48 crore. With fine and penalty, the statutory dues are around Rs 1.47 lakh crore.

Holding that interest and penalty have rightly been levied on the telecom companies, the apex court had made it clear that there would be no further litigation on the issue and it would fix a time-frame for calculation and payment of dues by the telecom companies. The DOT argued that AGR also included income from dividends and revenue from the sale of handsets and bundled with services. However, telecom firms contested this assesment.

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