In a big setback for telcos, the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed their plea seeking correction of alleged errors in AGR calculation. A day after the top court pronounced the judgment in the matter, it was uploaded on its website on Saturday afternoon.
The telcos had urged the top court to permit the Centre to verify their accounts and rectify the alleged defects in the computation of AGR dues, stating that if it is not allowed, the matter could threaten some of them in a highly competitive sector.
Dismissing the telcos' plea, a bench headed by Justice L. Nageswara Rao said: "Though these applications appear to be innocuous at first blush, the end result of the relief sought by the applicants in the guise of correction or rectification of the defects or arithmetical errors in calculation of AGR dues, would be recalculation which would amount to the AGR dues, as specified in the order of this court dated July 20, 2020, being altered."
The bench, also comprising justices S. Abdul Nazeer and M.R. Shah, noted that even at the time of passing of the July 20, 2020 order, an attempt was made to seek recalculation and reassessment, which was rejected by the top court outright.
"The dispute relating to AGR dues had remained pending in courts for a very long period of time and bearing this in mind, this court was at pains to emphasise, at the cost of repetition, that the AGR dues payable by the TSPs (telecom service providers) cannot be the subject matter of any future litigation," the bench said, making it clear that any application for altering the AGR dues cannot be entertained.
The telcos had argued that the accounts pertaining to several years had to be scrutinised to arrive at the amounts payable by them towards AGR dues.
The companies had contended that a scrutiny of the accounts had revealed that certain ‘arithmetical errors' had arisen due to inadvertence on the part of the Department of Telecommunications while computing the dues.
They argued that the top court judgment passed on September 1, 2020 needed clarification as even calculation errors cannot be rectified by the Union of India in view this judgment.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Vodafone Idea, had referred to a note to demonstrate certain glaring errors in the demand raised by the Centre wherein amounts that have already been paid by the company were not taken into account for computing the outstanding AGR dues.
Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, representing Airtel, had submitted that the errors committed in computation of its AGR dues arose due to double counting of some revenue items, payments made but not accounted for, and accrued deductions not being given effect to.
Singhvi said that his client should not be made to suffer for certain calculation errors made by the Centre.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing Tata, had submitted that there is no prohibition in seeking rectification of inadvertent errors committed in the calculation of AGR dues.
According to a note submitted by the DoT in the top court last year, Vodafone Idea owed Rs 58,254 crore, out of which it had paid around Rs 7,850 crore; Bharti Airtel owed Rs 43,980 crore of which it had paid over Rs 18,000 crore; and Tata Telecom owed Rs 16, 798 crores, out of which it had paid Rs 4,197 crore.