The PSUs have told the SC that they were never heard on the issue before the order was passed.
Non-telecom public sector companies like Oil India (OIL), Gail India, Power Grid Corporation (PGCIL) and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) on Friday moved separate pleas before the Supreme Court seeking clarity on the applicability of its October 24, 2019, order on payment of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues. They have sought a clarification from the apex whether the order on payment of licence fee and spectrum usage charge dues also applies to them.
Senior counsel Maninder Singh mentioned the applications for urgent hearing before a bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde, which posted the matter for hearing next week along with various modification applications filed by telecom companies, including Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices. The telcos have sought permission to approach DoT for scheduling their payments and also easier payment terms. Over the next few days, more public sector undertakings are likely to approach the SC for similar clarification.
The PSUs have told the SC that they were never heard on the issue before the order was passed and their revenues from their regular businesses were disproportionately higher than the income from the telecom business.
DoT has demanded Rs 1.72 lakh crore from Gail, Rs 48,000 crore from Oil India, Rs 22,168 crore from PowerGrid and Rs 5,841 crore from DMRC, among others.
OIL, in its application, said that while it earned barely Rs 1.47 crore from leasing spare capacity, the DoT has demanded Rs 40,108 crore licence fee based on its entire revenue, including sale of oil and gas, thus “completely ignoring the fact that the AGR definition under the UAS Licence Agreement is materially different from the definition of ‘revenue’ under the NLD Licence Agreement”.
DMRC, which also sought clarification, said that the DoT’s “unjust demand” would lead to “evaporation of financial structure of DMRC and would lead to operations coming to a standstill to the great detriment of the commuting public of national capital region”. “The stand of DoT to re-examine the assessment orders from 2004 onwards is also illegal as the DoT itself has finalised the assessment under the Licence Agreement of December 2, 2004, till financial year 2010-11 and any reopening of such past assessment orders is illegal and not permissible in law for the facts of the case,” DMRC said, adding that the Rs 5,481.51-crore demand plus interest is almost equal to approximately its full financial year’s revenue.
While the PSUs have lined up in the SC with their prayers, the government on Thursday had said that it will not take any coercive action against telecom companies that failed to meet the January 23 deadline to pay dues.
After the apex court rejected their limited review petitions seeking waiver of interest, penalty, and interest on penalty, telcos moved modification applications to allow them to approach the DoT where they can negotiate the terms and conditions of payment. The operators had urged for relief keeping in context the overall financial hardship being faced by the industry.
Of the Rs 1.47-lakh-crore of dues, the share of the three companies – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and Tata Teleservices, comes to Rs 1.02 lakh crore.