No self-assessment of AGR dues, verdict ‘final’: Supreme Court tells telcos

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday told telecom operators to settle all dues and termed the 20 years’ time frame proposed by the government for AGR (adjusted gross revenue) payment as “unreasonable”.

The top court directed that “no self-assessment or re-assessment of AGR dues needs to be done by telecom companies” and if done “they will be held in contempt”.

“Serious fraud being committed by telecom companies by asserting to do self-assessment of AGR dues,” the SC noted.
It further stated that the “judgment on AGR dues is full and final, it should be followed in letter and spirit.”
The court also mentioned that it “may summon DoT (department of telecommunications) secretary and desk officer who permitted telecos to do self-assessment of AGR dues.”

Earlier on Monday, the Centre had moved the SC seeking approval of its formula to allow telecom companies to pay their AGR dues in annual instalments for over 20 years to avoid impact on the economy.

Under the formula mooted by the government (now rejected by the SC), telcos impacted by the October 24 verdict of the Supreme Court could be allowed to pay the DoT-assessed dues in annual instalments in over 20 years (or less if they so opt), “duly protecting the next present value of the said dues using a discount rate of eight per cent (based on one year marginal cost of lending rate of SBI which is currently 7.75 per cent)”.

As per the formula, the interest on the unpaid amount, penalty, and interest on penalty in relation to the past dues as on the date of the judgment will not be levied beyond the date of the said judgment, and the net present value will be protected using the discount rate.

The wider definition of AGR left 15 telcos, including many that are now defunct, facing over Rs 1.43 lakh crore in license fees, spectrum usage charge, interest and penalties. Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices were the worst affected with combined dues of Rs 1.19 lakh crore.
(With PTI inputs)