Bharti Airtel moves Supreme Court for recalculation of AGR dues, seeks recall of earlier orders

Bharti Airtel's self-assessment pegs its total dues at ₹ 13,004 crore though it has already paid over ₹ 18,000 crore out of the total AGR dues of ₹ 44,000 crore sought by the DoT.
Bharti Airtel moves Supreme Court for recalculation of AGR dues, seeks recall of earlier orders
Bharti Airtel

Telecom company, Bharti Airtel has moved the Supreme Court seeking recalculation of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues which it owes to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and praying for recall of earlier orders passed by the top court in this regard.

Bharti Airtel's self-assessment pegs its total dues at ₹ 13,004 crore though it has already paid over ₹ 18,000 crore out of the total AGR dues of ₹ 44,000 crore sought by the DoT.

In its plea before the Supreme Court, Bharti Airtel has contended that AGR payments which were made earlier was not taken into account by the DoT while raising demands for different circles and years.

The plea by Airtel states that the earlier orders of the Supreme Court directing that the amounts stated should be treated as final and that there should be no further process of assessment, "are ex facie a mistake of this Hon’ble Court".

The Court, Airtel has submitted, made a mistake inasmuch as :

(i) the process of assessment of the past dues had admittedly not been finalized / completed; and

(ii) accordingly the Respondent’s said annexed Chart had expressly stated that the amounts mentioned therein were based on “Preliminary Assessments” and were expressly stated to be “subject to further revisions due to departmental assessments."

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The petition claims that duplication in revenue addition by adding it twice from different audit reports, errors of omission and commission led to rise in AGR dues, alleging that an incorrect interest rate was applied to raise demands for Spectrum Usage Charge (SUC).

The application accordingly seeks clarification / modification / recall of the orders of March 18, 2020, July 20, 2020 and paragraph 38 (i) in order dated September 1, 2020 insofar as they:

(i) direct that the said amounts mentioned in the Respondent’s Statement, be taken as the final amounts; and

(ii) preclude the Respondent from proceeding with and completing the departmental assessments and finalizing the amounts due and payable

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Other telecom companies are yet to file similar petitions, though they had earlier claimed that DoT's demands were more than their self-assessment before the top court had rejected their stand.

In October 2019, the top court had upheld DoT's definition of AGR and had asked telecom companies to clear dues within three months. Review petitions by telecom companies were rejected in January 2020, after which they had sought a longer timeline to pay AGR dues in order to avoid bankruptcy.

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Subsequently, in September 2020, the apex court gave 10 years to telecom companies to clear pending AGR dues and asked the NCLT to decide on spectrum sale under IBC. It also exempted payment on entire past dues of shared spectrum, which saved Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio from paying AGR dues worth over Rs 40,000 crore.

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