The Supreme Court Wednesday pulled up the Centre and telecom companies for doing self-assessment or reassessment of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues fixed by the apex court in its verdict given on October 24 last year. The court lashed out at mobile phone operators for self-assessing their outstanding telecoms dues, saying it amounted to a violation of court orders.
The Supreme Court late last year upheld a demand by India’s telecoms department that wireless carriers pay Rs. 92,000 crores in overdue levies and interest.
Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, two of India’s top three carriers, owed the bulk of that money.
The top court, which was also anguished by frequently published newspaper articles on the AGR issue, said all Managing Directors of telecom companies will be personally responsible and will be held for contempt of court for any such future newspaper articles.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S A Nazeer and M R Shah refused to take up the Centre”s plea for allowing telecom companies to pay AGR dues in 20 years, saying the application will be taken up after two weeks
Bharti Airtel has paid Rs. 13,000 crores and another Rs. 5,000 crores as ad-hoc payments to cover any differences based on its own assessment. That, Bharti said, covers all outstanding dues, though it is less than half of the company’s liability as estimated by the telecoms department.
Vodafone Idea has so far paid Rs. 6,854 crores of the Rs. 21,500 crores it estimates it owes, but much lower than the government demand.
Both companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court also came down heavily on the federal telecoms department for allowing companies to re-assess what they owed to the government, saying its order in the matter was final.
It, however, said it was open to considering pleas seeking reasonable time for payment of the dues.