Thursday, February 9, 2023

SC Asks Telcos To Look At Revenue Pattern And Decide On Paying Up

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The Supreme Court today directed the Telecom Companies to furnish details on how much revenue is being earned by them till now and has also sought suggestion on how the Telcos were intending to clear their dues for AGR charges.

The bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra, Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice MR Shah was hearing the Adjusted Gross Revenue case (AGR) where the Court on the previous hearing warned Telcos as well as the DoT for failing to move forward with the statutorily payable dues.

SG Tushar Mehta appearing for DoT today submitted that an application had been filed to allow staggered payments by the telecom companies, including Airtel and Vodafone Idea of the AGR dues of around Rs 1.47 lakh crore.

Mehta further submitted that directing telecom majors to pay the AGR dues in one go will impact the interest of customers in so far as quality & services are concerned. Moreover the customers will suffer in case repercussions on telecom majors will have impact on consumers across the country.

Hearing Mehta’s submissions the bench asked the SG, “what’s the guarantee that telecom companies will abide with the time frame fixed. How can you secure the sum? Undertakings won’t suffice. Some may rather go to jail than paying up. How will you ensure payments.

SG Mehta submitted that the Telecom Companies will have to satisfy the Court about payments. He further submitted that license conditions are different for PSU’s.

Justice Arun Muishra expressing displeasure over the bills being issued to PSU’s despite the court’s judgement not saying anything on it remarked “I wonder everyday how our judgment has been used & misused. Who is this gentlemen doing nuisance?”

The bench further asked the SG, “Licensing conditions are different. so how did you raise the bills? Was it only to put this court under pressure that PSUs will also have to pay? Are you going to withdraw it? What do you say?”

The bench further remarked “this demand from the PSUs is impermissible. Your officers can’t go Scot free. They will have to explain how did they raise such a demand. It was completely illegal. You better withdraw this demand. These officers are misusing our judgment. Let them file affidavits now.”

On DoT’s application for payment over 20 years the bench said “Who has seen 20 years? Nobody knows what will happen in next 20 years, not even companies. Your plea of 20 years can’t be reasonable, especially when this matter is already pending for 20 years. Litigation began in 1999.”

Dr AM Singhvi appeared for Airtel, Senior Counsel  Arvind Datar appeared for TATA and Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal appeared for Hughes Communications.

The bench has adjourned the matter for next hearing on June 18.

Read the order here;


-India Legal Bureau

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