AGR dues: SC snubs DoT over ‘self-assessment’, payment by telecom companies over 20-yrs
While hearing the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) plea regarding the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR), the bench of the Supreme Court of India on Wednesday displayed its annoyance and said no further objections to its orders would be allowed. The plea stated that telcos be allowed to spread the payment of their dues over 20 years or less, but was snubbed by the three-member bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra. The bench also comprised Justices S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah.
The bench also took up the issue of telecom companies’ self-assessment and emphatically stated that self-assessment cannot be allowed when ‘our order clearly spells out the dues and is impermissible’. Justice Mishra further questioned, “Where did the concept of self-assessment come in? Who permitted self-assessment without permission of the court? This is sheer contempt of court.”
The court vehemently stated, “Dues have been finalized by the court, no backtracking can be allowed for that. Are we fools?! Can’t we understand what’s happening?”
Further the court also categorically said it was a matter of public money that has gone unpaid for 20 years, and that the telcos were trying to influence public opinion through the media.
The 15 telco companies of the country face over Rs 1.43 lakh crore in license fees, spectrum usage charge, interest, and penalties. Many of these companies are now defunct while Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices are the worst affected with a combined due of Rs 1.19 lakh crore.