BY : ROHIT SARKAR
The Supreme Court on 18 th March held that there would not be any re-assessment of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues to be paid by telecom firms as it crashed on the government and hence called its attitude in the case questionable. The Court said that the telecom companies will have to pay the total interest and penalty as per its earlier judgement.
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The two judge bench comprising of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice MR Shah questioned the telecom department as to who had allowed them to reassess their dues and also remarked that this behavior will amount to sheer contempt of court. The bench said that if this reassessment is allowed, then it is fraud on this court and they won’t spare the officials who allowed reassessment of telecom dues.
The judges were irritated by the telecom companies that kept knocking on their doors even though their October 24 th judgement clearly states that the companies have to play their dues. Vodafone Idea was estimated to pay dues amounting to ₹ 58,254 crores, including the penalty and interests. Vodafone Idea’s assessment though put it at ₹21,533 crore and so far the telecom has only paid ₹6854 crore, which is the entire principal amount it had self-assessed as dues towards the AGR. On the other hand, Bharti Airtel has put its dues at ₹13004 crore after their self-assessment which is less than a third of ₹43,980 crore which was estimated by Department of Telecommunication (DoT). On behalf of the government’s plea to allow telecom firms to make staggered payments for AGR dues, the court said it will hear the matter. Later on Monday the Government had approached the Supreme Court seeking approval for a solution or method by which telecom service providers could make annual installments of unpaid or remaining AGR dues in the next 20 years.
The Apex Court was hearing the petition filed by the Department of Tele-communications which had proposed a staggered payment of Adjusted Gross Revenues dues throughout the coming 20 years in regards to the current economic condition of the telecom industry, and the repercussions it will have, including on consumers and job losses, if one of the telecom operators decides to file for bankruptcy, according to an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in their hearing stated that it will not allow for another round of litigation in this case and the telecom companies will have to make the payments as per the directions of the court in the October Judgement.
Justice Arun Mishra said and quote “Department of Tele Communication’s demand has been confirmed by us, where does the question arise? This cannot be allowed when our orders clearly spells out the dues”
The Petition stated that if any immediate action is taken against the workings of the various telecom service providers, it could have an adverse impact on the overall economy and functioning of the country and would also seriously harm the interest of the consumers across the country. But on the other hand the court cannot let these companies run off with the citizen’s money and not pay their dues on time. Reassessment of the dues could have benefited the debt burdened Vodafone Idea Ltd the most.