SC dismisses applications filed by telecoms regarding ‘arithmetical errors’

Krishnadas Rajagopal New Delhi | Updated on July 23, 2021

Bench reiterates that the amounts cannot be recomputed

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the applications filed by major telecoms like Voda-Idea and Airtel for a chance to place their grievances about “arithmetical errors” in their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues before the Department of Telecom (DoT).

They had sought an opportunity to correct the mistakes in the calculations.

A special bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah pronounced the order.

In a September 2020 judgment, the apex court had ordered that the annual 10% instalments for payment of AGR dues would commence from April 1, 2021 up to March 31, 2031.

In the last hearing, Airtel, Voda-Idea and Tata were among some of the companies who assured the court that they have paid “more than” their expected instalment.

Calculation errors

However, Voda-Idea had complained to the court about the “arithmetical errors” in the calculation of AGR dues.

“If I have paid ₹1, only 50 paisa is reflected... In one entry, the actual payment made is 155 crore, payment shown in DoT is ₹153 crore,” senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for Voda, had submitted.

The Bench had however reminded the telecoms about the express bar imposed by the Supreme Court on the re-assessment of AGR dues.

“The Supreme Court has said not just once, but twice and thrice that the amounts cannot be recomputed,” the Bench had addressed Mr. Rohatgi in the hearing.

“The figure is not cast in stone. The court has power to correct arithmetical errors. My dues are ₹58,000 crore. We are about to go under. Our debts are ₹1.8 lakh crores. Let us place our calculations before DoT, let them take a call,” Mr. Rohatgi had urged.

Senior advocate AM Singhvi, for Airtel, had echoed Mr. Rohatgi’s submission for a chance to place the calculations before the DoT.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, for Tata, too had submitted they were not seeking a recomputation of their dues, but only an opportunity with DoT to rectify certain mistakes in calculation.

In September last year, the apex court had allowed tele companies 10 years’ time to pay their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues to the government. The government had initially proposed a 20-year “formula” for telecoms to make staggered payments of the dues. The dues had run to ₹1.43 lakh crore at that time.

An earlier October 24, 2019 judgment of the court in the AGR case had originally wanted the telecoms to make their repayments in three months.

Published on July 23, 2021

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