Vodafone and other telecom companies on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court for more time to pay the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) of Rs 92,000 crore, in view of their efforts to work out a schedule with the Union government.
The telecom service providers, including Airtel, Vodafone, Tata Teleservices, Reliance Com, BSNL and MTNL, are now faced with the burden of dues with penalty and interest, which was estimated to go around Rs 1.47 lakh crore, after the apex court’s October 24, 2019 judgement and rejection of their review petitions on January 16.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi and other counsel C A Sundaram and Neeraj Kishan Kaul submitted before a bench presided over by Chief Justice S A Bobde, that the companies wanted urgent hearing on their application for modification for the time -schedule as three-month time given in the main judgement of October 24 was coming to an end on January 23.
“We are working out a schedule with the government. We are not contesting the issue here,” they said, as representations have been sent to the department of telecommunications in this regard.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta did not object to their plea. The top court agreed to list their plea next week.
In its plea, Vodafone Idea Ltd contended it had not made any “wrongful gain on account of non-payment of AGR in view of losses suffered for the last several years on account of regulatory policies and also aggressive competition”.
It said it was necessary for the court to issue appropriate directions in the interest of justice to ensure that the company can make payment of the amounts due in a time frame, which would also allow it to continue operations and would not drive it to closure.
The company feared, “any coercive order for immediate payments would go against the interest of thousands of employees, crores of subscribers, multiple banks and institutions and all connected stakeholders.”
The company, at present, had 11705 employees and provided employment opportunities to one lakh people approximately.
It further pointed out the value of Rs 190,000 crore of equity investments by promoters was now worth less than Rs 10,500 crore with virtually no prospect of recovery.
On October 24, the top court had upheld the definition of adjusted gross revenue formulated by the Department of Telecom (DoT) and dismissed objections of the telecom companies, as the government intended to pump money from its share of telecom gross revenue into developing remote and uncovered areas, rural, tribal, and hilly areas.
On a plea by the telecom companies, the Union government had earlier decided to set up a Committee of Secretaries headed Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba to review their financial stress. The telecom sector was already reeling under overall debt of over Rs 4 lakh crore,