In a major blow to Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd, the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday (January 16) rejected the petition of the telecom companies to review its judgement passed on October 24, 2019 ordering the telecom companies to pay dues amounting to around Rs 92,000 crore over the companies’ Adjusted Gross Revenues (AGR).
It is to be noted that the SC had ordered the telecom companies to meet the license fee dues by January 23, 2020. The apex court, however, allowed the telecom companies to file curative petitions challenging the rejection of their AGR review petitions.
Notably, the legal tussle between the government and the telecom firms over the definition of AGR is ongoing for the last 14 years. The telecom department calculates levies payable by companies on the basis of AGR.
Earlier, the SC had said all revenues, except for termination fee and roaming charges, will be a part of the AGR, while the telecom firms had claimed that non-telecom, non-core revenues should not be included in the AGR.
Telcos had also said the SC said that non-telecom revenues such as rent, dividend income, interest income, profit from the sale of fixed assets should not be included in AGR's definition. Experts maintain that the SC ruling is huge disappointment for telecom companies and it exposes the weakness in the licensing regime of the government.
The amount of Rs 92,000 crore claimed by the government as licence fee includes the principal amount, interest and penalties. The government had sought Rs 21,682 crore from Bharti Airtel, Rs 28,300 crore from Voda-Idea, Rs 16,500 crore from RCom, Rs 2100 crore from BSNL and Rs 2,537 crore from MTNL.