Supreme Court: The bench of Arun Mishra and MR Shah, JJ has dismissed a petition filed by Vodafone against the levy of one-time spectrum charges (OTSC).
When Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Vodafone, told a bench that the charges are related to the adjusted gross revenue (AGR), a rather furious Justice Mishra said,
“Don’t pay anything… not this, not AGR. You will still not be touched,”
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had sought to levy a one-time spectrum charge on telecom service providers. This comes after the telecom companies paid their AGR dues to the Central government after the Supreme Court pulled them up for violating its earlier order and not paying the money on time.
Last year, in Union of India v. Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1393, the bench of Arun Mishra, SA Nazeer and MR Shah, JJ had refused to change the definition of gross revenue as defined in clause 19.1 of the licence agreement granted by the Government of India to the Telecom Service Providers. It had held,
“The definition in agreement is unambiguous, clear, and beyond the pale of doubt, and there is no confusion in the definition of gross revenue, which is the basis for realisation of the licence fee. Licensees have made a futile attempt to wriggle out of the definition in an indirect method, which was rejected directly in the decision of 2011 between the parties and it was held that these very heads form part of gross revenue.”
Vodafone Idea’s total AGR dues, as estimated by the DoT stand at Rs 53,038 crore, which includes Rs 24,729 crore of spectrum dues and Rs 28,309 crore as the license fee. On the other hand, Bharti Airtel’s total AGR dues reportedly amount to Rs 35,586 crore.