AGR case: DoT’s bad maths can hike dues up to eight times, says Airtel

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January 7, 2021 5:15 AM

Bharti Airtel has moved the Supreme Court (SC) asking for a modification in its order so that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) can finalise its assessment of AGR dues after taking into account the representations made by various telcos.

AirtelThe stake was held through Bharti Airtel's wholly-owned subsidiary Nettle Infrastructure Investments Limited.

Bharti Airtel has moved the Supreme Court (SC) asking for a modification in its order so that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) can finalise its assessment of AGR dues after taking into account the representations made by various telcos. The DoT table on the dues from various telcos the SC judgment cites is titled: “Amounts recoverable from major TSPs as per preliminary assessments”, and a clarification was provided at the end of the table that said: “All dues are subject to further revisions due to departmental assessments, CAG audits, Special Audits, Court Cases etc”.

The “preliminary assessments”, however, got treated as final by the SC when, on March 18 last year — the original order was given on October 24, 2019, — it ruled that “no exercise of self-assessment/re-assessment to be done and the dues which were placed before us have to be paid as we have affirmed these dues, including interest and penalty as ordered in the judgment”.

While DoT had estimated that Bharti Airtel owed Rs 43,980 crore, while Airtel’s own estimate put the dues at Rs 13,004 crore. For Vodafone Idea, the numbers were Rs 58,254 crore against its self-assessment of Rs 21,533 crore while for Tata Teleservices, DoT estimates pegged the amount at Rs 16,798 crore against Rs 2,197 crore. According to Airtel, DoT has made various arithmetical errors in its calculations and the impact of this is significant. For every one rupee extra that DoT has said a telco owes, thanks to interest and penalties — and interest on penalties — results in AGR dues getting inflated by up to eight times depending upon the year to which it pertains.

“There are a number of apparent arithmetic errors in DoT’s demands, such as duplications in revenue addition, errors of omission and errors of commission, which have nothing to do with the inclusion or exclusion of a particular head of revenue (taking the heads of revenue as final as per the AGR judgement dated October 24, 2019),” the company said in its affidavit. Airtel said this was ex facie, a mistake by this court as the said judgment dated October 24, 2019, does not dealt with or refer to the amount of the dues payable.

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