AGR Dues | SC rejects Telecom Service Providers’ application for rectification of errors in calculation of AGR dues as misconceived

Supreme Court: A 3-Judge Bench of L. Nageswara Rao, S. Abdul Nazeer and M.R. Shah, JJ. dismissed a batch of miscellaneous applications filed by Telecom Service Providers (“TSPs”) for allowing rectification of clerical/arithmetical errors in computation of Adjusted Gross Revenue dues (“AGR dues”).

The instant applications were filed for modification of Court’s earlier judgment in Union of India v. Assn. of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, (2020) 9 SCC 748.

Backdrop

In Union of India v. Assn. of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, (2020) 3 SCC 525, the Supreme Court considered the definition of “gross revenue” as defined in Clause 19.1 of the license agreements between the Government of India and TSPs. In Mandar Deshpande, In re, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 758, the Court observed that an attempt was made by TSPs to wriggle out of the judgment in Assn. of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, (2020) 3 SCC 525 in the guise of seeking reassessment and recalculation of AGR dues. The Court was of the firm opinion that there was no scope for raising any further dispute with respect to AGR dues. It was also mentioned that the calculations made and the amount to be recovered as stated in the earlier judgment shall be treated to be final and no recalculation and self-assessment can be undertaken.

In Union of India v. Assn. of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, (2020) 9 SCC 748, among other things, it was directed that:

That for the demand raised by the Department of Telecom in respect of the AGR dues based on the judgment of this Court, there shall not be any dispute raised by any of the Telecom Operators and that there shall not be any reassessment.

Grievance

The grievance of the applicants was that the judgment in Assn. of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, (2020) 9 SCC 748, needs clarification as even calculation errors cannot be rectified by the Union of India in view of that judgment. It was submitted that a scrutiny of the accounts revealed that certain arithmetical errors have arisen due to inadvertence on the part of the Department of Telecommunications while computing these dues. It was contended that even as per directions made in the earlier judgment, there is no prohibition from seeking rectification of inadvertent errors committed in calculation of AGR dues; and that the applicants should not be made to suffer for certain calculation errors made by the Union of India.

Decision

The Supreme Court was of the view that though the instant applications appeared to be innocuous at first blush, the end result of the relief sought by the applicants in the guise of correction or rectification of the defects or arithmetical errors in calculation of AGR dues, would be recalculation which would amount to alteration in AGR dues as specified in Mandar Deshpande, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 758.  It was observed:

The dispute relating to AGR dues had remained pending in courts for a very long period of time and bearing this in mind, this Court was at pains to emphasize, at the cost of repetition, that the AGR dues payable by TSPs cannot be the subject matter of any future litigation. The order in Mandar Deshpande, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 758 makes it clear that there is no scope for any recalculation/re-computation of AGR dues.

Opining that there was no room for any doubt so as to warrant a modification in its earlier judgment, the Supreme Court said that the instant miscellaneous applications were misconceived and therefore dismissed. [Union of India v. Assn. of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 483, decided on 23-7-2021]


Tejaswi Pandit, Senior Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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