Non-telecom companies knock at DoT door over AGR dues

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Updated: December 12, 2019 8:30:10 AM

Communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has also recently clarified in Parliament that the apex court order will be applicable to all licensees, including companies such as GAIL, PowerGrid and RailTel etc.

Non telecom company, DoT door, AGR dues, telecom company,  GAIL, PowerGrid, RailTel, DoTCommunications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Non-telecom PSUs with a telecom licence, such as GAIL and PowerGrid, have made representations to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), asserting their point of view that they don’t owe anything more in terms of licence fee and spectrum charges to the government.

The responses of these companies came against the backdrop of DoT issuing notices to all of them after the Supreme Court’s order on adjusted gross revenue (AGR) in favour of DoT.

As per internal DoT calculations, non-telecom firms owe more than Rs 2 lakh crore in licence fee and spectrum usage charges. According to sources, most of the non-telecom PSUs have approached DoT to present their point of view. DoT, on its part, has sent reminders to all the licensees to pay up within the court laid-down timeline of three months. As the SC order came on October 24, the firms have to pay by January 24, 2020.

Communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has also recently clarified in Parliament that the apex court order will be applicable to all licensees, including companies such as GAIL, PowerGrid and RailTel etc.

DoT has issued notices to these PSUs whose core operations are not telecom but have a telecom licence of some nature or use spectrum for some part of their operations. These PSUs have been asked to pay their licence fee and spectrum usage charge dues, not only on telecom-related revenues but on total revenues, as per the October 24 SC order.

As per an internal DoT committee, GAIL will have to pay a little over Rs 1.72 lakh crore as AGR dues. While the PSU, which had an internet as well as a mobile phone licence, earned just Rs 35 crore since 2001-02, DoT put its AGR at Rs 2.5 lakh crore. As per DoT’s definition of AGR, which the SC ratified last month, several items of non-telecom revenue also have to be added to AGR.

Similarly, while PowerGrid which had both a national long-distance as well as an internet licence said its AGR since 2006-07 was Rs 3,566 crore, but DoT estimated it at Rs 1.25 lakh crore. Once the interest on this as well as the penalty is added, the AGR dues become Rs 22,168 crore.

Telecom companies owe around Rs 1.47 lakh crore in dues, which is much lower than what non-telecom firms have to pay. The telecom companies, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices, have filed a limited review petition in the court seeking waiver of interest, penalty, and interest on penalty on the dues, which constitute 75% of the total dues. None of the PSU has done anything similar so far regarding their dues.

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