The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has decided to withdraw 96 per cent of the ₹4-lakh crore demand for adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues raised against non-telecom PSUs, including Power Grid Corporation of India, GAIL India, Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals and Oil India.

The Supreme Court last week had come down heavily on the DoT for demanding AGR from these PSUs, terming it “totally impermissible”.

The PSUs had contested the DoT’s demand, saying telecom wasn’t their core business and revenue from licences such as ISP formed a meagre part of their revenue.

DoT response

A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah was informed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the DoT had filed an affidavit explaining the reasons for raising the demand of AGR-related dues against the PSUs.

Meanwhile, the DoT has sought time from the Bench, which is hearing the matter through video-conferencing, to respond to the affidavits filed by telecom companies, including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, on payment of AGR dues by them.

The Supreme Court has directed the operators to file audited balance sheets of the past 10 years and come up with payment proposals. It has asked DoT to consider these proposals. The next hearing in the matter has been scheduled for the third week of July.

On May 18, the SC had lashed out at Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and other operators for self-assessing their outstanding telecom dues, saying they need to pay past dues with interest and penalty, totalling around ₹1.6-lakh crore.

As per the earlier order on AGR dues, Bharti Airtel has paid ₹18,004 crore of the ₹43,980-crore due, Vodafone Idea has paid ₹6,854 crore of ₹51,400 crore due and the Tata group has paid ₹4,197 crore of its ₹16,788 crore dues.

The telcos have been pleading with the Supreme Court to grant them a 20-year time-frame to pay their AGR dues without any additional bank guarantee or personal guarantees, on which the SC had asked them to come up with a payment proposal and send it to the DoT.