Supreme Court to hear telcos’ AGR pleas next week

Rajesh Kurup Mumbai | Updated on January 21, 2020

TRAI has imposed penalties on major telecom operators, including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular (now merged). File Photo   -  Reuters

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear the incumbent telecom companies’ pleas on the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) issue next week, even as January 23 is the deadline for paying the dues. The apex court is yet to fix a date for the next hearing.

“We mentioned the matter today at the Supreme Court, and the court has listed the application for next week. As of now, there is no respite for the January 23 deadline,” Shally Bhasin, partner with Delhi-based Agarwal Law Associates, which represents Vodafone Idea, told BusinessLine.

On Monday, Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices moved a joint application before the Supreme Court seeking modifications to the earlier ruling that said the telecom companies should pay their AGR dues before January 23. The companies, which had posted huge losses in the second quarter due to AGR provisioning, also sought waiving of the penalties.

Also read: AGR dues: Telecom firms approach SC for deadline extension

On January 17, in a setback to the telecom operators, the Supreme Court dismissed their plea seeking a review of its earlier order asking the incumbent to pay ₹1.47-lakh crore in past statutory AGR dues by January 23.

A Bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah dismissed the petition as it did not find any “justifiable reason to entertain the review petitions”.

While Bharti Airtel has dues of more than ₹35,500 crore, Vodafone Idea needs to pay more than ₹53,000 crore. Tata Teleservices, which sold its consumer mobility business to Airtel, has dues of ₹13,823 crore.

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea had said, earlier, they would file curative petitions before the Supreme Court.

However, analysts and industry were sceptical and said that the incumbent telecom firms should be prepared for the worst case scenario as “the probability of resolution remains bleak”.

According to a report by ICICI Securities, Bharti Airtel has already raised capital of $3 billion, which should help meet the burden. But this remains a huge task for Vodafone Idea — a challenge that cannot be resolved without government intervention.

Published on January 21, 2020

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