Bharti Airtel (Airtel) and Vodafone Idea Limited (Vi) have requested the Supreme Court to hear their curative petitions against the top court’s earlier order which rejected their limited review petitions for rectification of arithmetical errors in calculation of their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues made by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
The two operators in their individual curative pleas have highlighted that they were not challenging the imposition of licence fee on the heads as defined by the apex court, but these directions were vitiated by a patent error of law and have resulted in a gross miscarriage of justice.
They are seeking to set aside the October 2019 judgment to the limited extent of imposing penalty and interest on penalty and allow correction of manifest/clerical and arithmetical errors in the provisional demands raised by DoT.
Of the total Rs 1.47 trillion of AGR dues which the telecom operators were required to pay by January 2020, as a result of the apex court’s October 24, 2019, nearly 75 per cent comprised interest, penalty and interest on penalty. The licence fee dues stood at Rs 926.42 billion while spectrum usage charge was at Rs 550.54 billion.
While DoT had estimated that Airtel owed Rs 439.8 billion, Airtel’s own estimate put the dues at Rs 130.04 billion. For Vi, the numbers were Rs 582.54 billion against its self-assessment of Rs 215.33 billion while for Tata Teleservices, DoT estimates pegged the amount at Rs 167.98 billion against Rs 21.97 billion.
Vi in its curative plea said that the licensees would be also compelled to pay a penalty of 50 per cent of the entire amount of short-payment and interest on the penalty at 2 per cent rate above the prime lending rate of State Bank of India and that too compounded monthly. This, according to Vi, is in addition to interest for delayed payment.
Furthermore, these curative petitions arise out of a top court order on September 1, 2020, which ordered that the companies need to pay their dues over a 10-year period, after paying 10 per cent of the dues upfront by March 31, 2021. Thereafter, the deferred payment cycle would run till 2031 with the 10 per cent amount to be paid by March 31 every year.