SC lashes out at Jio, RCom on AGR dues

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on August 14, 2020

The apex court has estimated AGR dues of ₹40,000 crore for telcos under insolvency.   -  VV Krishnan

Asks government, Jio, RCom to come with details on Monday

The Supreme Court, while considering the telecom adjusted gross revenue (AGR) case, has directed the government, Reliance Jio and Reliance Communications to produce necessary documents to clarify who would be liable for AGR dues of RCom.

The matter has been adjourned for August 17.

The Bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah, on Friday ordered to place on record the documents between RCom and Jio. It has given similar directions to companies which are in liquidation such as Aircel and Videocon.

“Everything should be in white before us and we should not be put to dark about anything. AGR is independent, not like this. About the revenue-sharing regime, we will lay down the law,” Justice Mishra said.

The apex court has estimated AGR dues of ₹40,000 crore for telcos under insolvency. According to government estimates, RCom owes the Department of Telecommunications ₹25,199 crore, including spectrum usage charges and licence fee, and Aircel owes ₹12,389 crore.

On Monday, the court may also decide on the government’s petition to allow telecom companies such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea (VIL) and Tata Teleservices to make staggered payments of the AGR over a 20-year period.

On July 20, the SC had reserved its order on the timeline of payment of AGR dues to be paid by these telcos.

The apex court came down heavily on Friday and sought to know from Jio and RCom on who was using the spectrum. “Have you been avoiding liability since 2016?...Spectrum is nobody’s property. It is the government’s. It is public money. It is a revenue sharing regime,” Justice Mishra told the counsel for Jio.

Jio’s counsel said the company has paid the AGR dues under the “Spectrum Sharing Guidelines and Spectrum Trading Guidelines”, to which Justice Mishra said details of purchase must be before the Bench ‘in black and white’.

₹1.6-lakh crore dues

On May 18, the Supreme Court had also lashed out at the operators for self-assessing their outstanding AGR dues, saying they need to pay past dues with interest and penalty, totalling around ₹1.6-lakh crore.

On August 10, the apex court had adjourned the hearing, while observing that the government must come prepared with a plan for recovery of dues from the telcos under insolvency.

As per the DoT estimates, while Airtel has AGR dues of ₹43,980 crore, VIL has ₹51,400 crore and Tata has ₹16,788 crore dues.

Published on August 14, 2020

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