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SC turns down telco plea for open hearing

The apex court has directed the telecom companies to pay over Rs 1.47 lakh crore to DoT

By Our Special Correspondent in New Delhi

  • Published 10.01.20, 1:11 AM
  • Updated 10.01.20, 1:11 AM
The court is expected to hear the review plea next week and the telecom players and others have to make the payment by January 23
The court is expected to hear the review plea next week and the telecom players and others have to make the payment by January 23 (Shutterstock)

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the plea of telecom majors such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea to hear in an open court their petition to review its verdict on adjusted gross revenue (AGR).

The apex court has directed the telecom companies to pay over Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the department of telecommunications (DoT) in penalties.

The review petitions will be heard “in chamber” by the same three-judge bench, led by Justice Arun Mishra, which had delivered the October 24 order in favour of the DoT and widened the definition of AGR to include non-core revenue, leaving telcos and even non-telcos staring at hefty statutory dues. The other two members on the bench are justices A.A. Nazeer and M.R. Shah.

The court is expected to hear the review plea next week and the telecom players and others have to make the payment by January 23.

Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had told Parliament in November that Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and other telecom companies owe the government as much as Rs 1.47 lakh crore in past statutory dues.

He had added that there was no proposal to waive interest and penalties on such dues.

In reply to separate questions in the Lok Sabha, Prasad said licence fee dues were at Rs 92,642 crore and outstanding spectrum usage charges at Rs 55,054 crore.

In an affidavit filed earlier in the top court, the DoT said Airtel owed Rs 21,682.13 crore as licence fee to the government, while dues from Vodafone totalled Rs 19,823.71 crore. Reliance Communications owed Rs 16,456.47 crore, BSNL Rs 2,098.72 crore and MTNL Rs 2,537.48 crore.

The DoT has also sent demand notices of over Rs 3 lakh crore of combined licence fee dues to non-telecom firms, including GAIL, Power Grid Corp of India, Oil India and RailTel Corp.

Airtel meet to fix price

Telecom major Bharti Airtel on Thursday said its special committee will meet on January 14 to determine the issue price of its $2-billion qualified institutional placement (QIP).

The committee will also discuss the issue price and other terms of the up to $1 billion FCCBs offer.

The QIP, which opened on Wednesday, has been oversubscribed with participation from marquee fund houses.

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