India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has moved the Supreme Court seeking to recover Videocon Telecommunications’ adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues of Rs 1,376 crore from Bharti Airtel.
The DoT told the SC that it raised the demand as per the SC’s September 1 judgment. DoT had raised the demand to Bharti Airtel to pay AGR dues of Videocon, which had traded its entire spectrum (30 MHz in 1800 MHz band) to Airtel in 2016.
DoT had requested Airtel to comply with the SC directions. Airtel had questioned the DoT’s demand. Airtel had responded vide letters of October 16, 2020 and March 4, 2020 saying that “the DoT letter has no basis in law” and “Airtel cannot be held liable for Videocon’s past dues”, the department said in its affidavit to the court.
DoT submitted that the letter approving the spectrum trading clearly says that the licensor reserves the right to recover the dues which were not known to the parties at the time of the effective date of trade from the buyer or seller, jointly or severally at the discretion as per the trading guidelines of 2015, according to media reports.
The telecom service providers that are sharing the spectrum are required to pay AGR based dues after considering the additional spectrum rate as well as additional revenue generated from the use of that shared spectrum, the affidavit filed through Amit Katoch, deputy director general (LFP), DoT, stated.
DoT informed the SC that it has recovered AGR dues of only Rs 30,289.59 crore against the total demand of Rs 1,69,048.65 crore.
Airtel has paid Rs 18,004 crore against dues of Rs 43,980 crore. Vodafone has paid Rs 7,854.37 crore against Rs 58,254 crore demand raised by the department. However, Bharti’s own estimate of AGR dues is Rs 13,004 crore and Vodafone’s company’s own assessment so far is of Rs 21,533 crore.
Tata group and Reliance Jio have paid Rs 4,197.37 crore (against total dues of Rs 16,798 crore) and Rs 195.18 crore (total demand of Rs 70.53 crore), respectively.
SC is yet to take a decision on hearing the applications filed by Airtel, Vodafone Idea and others seeking modification of its order so that the DoT can consider its submissions regarding arithmetical errors in the calculations regarding its AGR dues.