Bharti Airtel approaches SC for Modification of AGR Dues

Sreya Kanugula

The company, Bharat Airtel Ltd. approached the SC requesting modification of its previous year’s verdict which made sure telecom operators were given time to pay their pending dues on the basis of the newly modified Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) definition.

The application mentions “correction of basic and arithmetic errors made in the accounts directed to be paid” and another reason argued by the company is that the dues that the Centre mentioned were primarily based on their initial assessment of dues to the court. But the SC did not allow for reassessment of the dues and had finalised them, it stated.

The errors mentioned included highlighted errors of omission such as the DVR (Deduction Verification Report) sent by the Circle CCAs not being taken into account whenever a demand was raised by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), payments already paid not being taken into account, incorrect interest rate assumed in terms of payment calculation on the Spectrum Usage Charge (SUC) demand; have also been mentioned in the company’s application. An instance of double addition of the revenue in different auditing reports shows mistakes made in the computation of revenue as well.

Such errors made have caused a significant rise in the demanded amount by the government, is also noted in the application. The increase it stated, is the claim “as for every Re. 1 increase in the principal amount, the levy of interest, penalty and interest on penalty results in the amount being claimed by the Respondent increasing by up to Rs. 8/-, depending on the year to which it pertains.’

In light of these mistakes, the application requests for the orders given on March 18 and September 1, 2020 to recall/modify the Rs. 43,890 crores placed as the amount that is final and payable by the applicant companies.

Bharti Airtel held that the DoT’s March application itself needs to be subjected to further revisions due to all the errors mentioned.

In the month of October in 2019, the SC ruled that the inclusion of non-core revenue must happen in statutory levy calculation. This brought to an end to a 14-year old judicial battle between the telecom service operators with the Centre on the AGR’s definition.

This inclusion of non-core revenue increased both Vodafone Idea Ltd company and Bharti Airtel Ltd company’s liabilities to higher than Rs. 90,000 crores.

Right after this judgment, both companies sought an audience with the court to ask for more time in paying their dues. In September 2020, they were allowed a 10 year period to pay their dues by the apex court.