The Supreme Court on Thursday asked telecom companies to submit their financial statements dating back 10 years, and posted the Adjusted Gross Revenue dues case against them for hearing in July, reported Bar and Bench.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah heard the case via video conference. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted that the Department of Telecommunications had planned to withdraw its decision to recover the dues from public sector undertakings or PSUs.
“We [Centre] have taken a decision since they are not in the business of providing teleservices to general public, we are withdrawing the dues from these PSUs,” Mehta said, according to Live Law. “96% demand now stands withdrawn.”
Lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, on behalf of Bharti Airtel, informed the court about the company’s payment of Rs 18,000 crore out of the pending dues of Rs 21,000 crore. Singhvi added that the firm had given the department a bank guarantee in excess of the demand made, and supported the Centre’s plan on phased repayment of dues.
“My losses are over Rs 1 lakh crore,” submitted senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Vodafone. “The bank guarantee of over Rs 15,000 crore is lying with the government and I cannot offer any more surety.” He added that the company cannot pay all its dues at once as its 11,000 employees will be left without jobs.
Thursday’s hearing came exactly a week after the top court rapped the Department of Telecommunications’ decision to seek Rs 4 lakh crore as dues towards Adjusted Gross Revenue from public sector units. The court had described the demand as “totally impermissible”.
On May 18, the Supreme Court had criticised the telecom firms for self-assessing their outstanding telecom dues. The court said the firms need to pay the outstanding dues along with interest and penalty, amounting to a total of Rs 1.6 lakh crore. The Supreme Court also lashed out at the Department of Telecommunications for allowing the companies to reassess their dues.
On January 15, the top court had dismissed petitions filed by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone seeking a review of its earlier order that allowed the government to collect Rs 1.47 lakh crore in past statutory dues by January 23. The court said it did not find any “justifiable reason” to entertain the petitions.