July 25, 2021

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SC to rule on AGR ‘calculation error’ plea on Thursday

The Supreme Court is expected to on Thursday rule on the telcos’ request for permission to show the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that ‘arithmetical errors’ were committed while computing their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, an order crucial for cash-strapped .

A three-judge bench headed by Justice L. N. Rao and comprising Justice Abdul Nazeer and Justice M.R. Shah had reserved its order at a hearing last Monday. The bench will rule on separate pleas filed in January by

, Vodafone Idea and , seeking a modification of the top court’s September 20, 2020 order which had declared DoT’s AGR calculations as final.

The three telcos are hoping that if allowed to show the calculation errors to the DoT, their AGR liabilities will be reduced.

Vodafone Idea — with a debt of Rs1.8 lakh crore and a cash balance of Rs350 crore — has linked its viability to reduction in its AGR dues, along with other factors. At its fiscal fourth quarter earnings call, the telco said it expected some relief from the SC which will reduce its AGR dues to nearly half.

Vi had self-assessed its dues at Rs21,533 crore, Airtel at Rs 13,003 crore and TTSL at Rs2,197 crore and all three in their petitions had said that these were far less than what Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had asked them for.

But the SC previously had rejected their self-assessments and ruled the DoT calculations as final. The ruling left Vi facing dues of Rs58,400 crore, Airtel, Rs43,980 crore, and Tata Teleservices, Rs 16798 crore, as calculated by the government. Of these, Vi has paid Rs7854 crore, Airtel, Rs18,003 crore and Tata Tele, Rs4,197 crore. The telcos need to pay their balance dues in 10 instalments through March 31, 2031.

Telcos and the DoT are also hoping for clarity on timing of first instalment of AGR dues. DoT says Vi, Airtel, Tata Tele should have paid another 10% of AGR dues by March 2021, and the balance spread over the next 10 years. But telcos say they have already paid more than 10%, and the next instalment is due only by March 2022.

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