AGR Case: Bharti Airtel Approaches Supreme Court To Seek Modification Of Dues
A vendor arranges Bharti Airtel Ltd. SIM card packets at a stall in Mumbai, India. (Photographer Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

AGR Case: Bharti Airtel Approaches Supreme Court To Seek Modification Of Dues

Bharti Airtel Ltd. has approached the Supreme Court seeking a modification in its verdict last year that allowed telecom operators time to repay pending dues based on the new definition of adjusted gross revenue.

The reason behind the application is that the dues mentioned by the central government to the court were based on a preliminary assessment and contained certain errors, the company argued. But the top court made it final and disallowed any reassessment of these dues, it said.

In March 2020, the Department of Telecommunications filed a modification application seeking the court’s permission to allow payment of the dues by operators over a period of 20 years. The DoT gave a list of dues to be paid by various telecom companies.

The Supreme Court, in its September 2020 order, granted the telecom companies a 10-year period to pay. But it also said the amount mentioned in the DoT’s March application be considered as final and no reassessment would be allowed.

Bharti Airtel has argued that the March application of the DoT itself mentioned that the dues were based on a preliminary assessment and were subject to further revisions. The top court therefore, it argued, made a mistake as it asked the company to pay dues which were not duly assessed and have a number of arithmetical errors.

The company in its application has given an illustrative list of arithmetical errors:

  • Mistakes in revenue computation such as an instance of revenue getting added twice from different audit reports.
  • Error of omission such as the Deduction Verification Report being missed by the DoT while raising the demand.
  • Payments already made by the company to DoT in respect of certain demands were either not considered or were incorrectly factored in some cases by the department.

As a result of these errors, the company said, there was a significant increase in the amount being claimed ‘’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 [Union of India] increasing by up to Rs 8".

In October 2019, the Supreme Court had ruled that non-core revenue must be included while calculating statutory levies, ending a 14-year-old legal battle between mobile operators and the government on the definition of AGR. That had increased the liabilities of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea Ltd. to more than Rs 90,000 crore.

Soon after, the companies approached the court seeking more time for payment of dues. In September last year, the apex court had allowed for the payment of dues over a period of 10 years.

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