Airtel moves SC for government talks on AGR

The Sunil Mittal-led telco filed an application in the apex court earlier this week seeking modification of the court’s order of October 24 to permit Airtel and the government to ascertain the amount to be paid and “a mutually acceptable basis for...

NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel has appealed to the Supreme Court to allow the telco and the government to agree on quantum of adjusted gross revenue (AGR)-based dues that need to be paid and the timeline for payments.

The Sunil Mittal-led telco filed an application in the apex court earlier this week seeking modification of the court’s order of October 24 to permit Airtel and the government to ascertain the amount to be paid and “a mutually acceptable basis for the discharge of the same” over an agreed period of time. Airtel declined to comment on the application, which followed the filing of its review petition last week.

Lawyers said Airtel is trying to find a legal opening to discuss options with the government that may help soften the financial blow on mobile phone companies. The government has clearly said it can’t provide any relief on AGR dues unless the Supreme Court directs it to.


The Department of Telecommunications calculated Airtel’s AGR dues to be over Rs 35,500 crore in licence fees, spectrum usage charges, interest and penalties. The figure may rise because the ministry is still updating its numbers, the government has said.

The telco, which posted a loss of over Rs 23,000 crore in the September quarter after provisioning for the potential AGR dues, said its ability to continue as a going concern is in doubt if it doesn’t get any relief on the dues and the timelines. The apex court had set a threemonth deadline for payment. Airtel filed a limited review plea in Supreme Court last Friday seeking reconsideration of interest, penalties and interest on penalties that make up about 75% of AGR dues. It didn’t seek a review of the timeline. The court had backed the telecom department’s definition of AGR, leaving the industry facing additional dues of Rs 1.47 lakh crore. Airtel and Vodafone Idea – with dues exceeding Rs 53,000 crore – are the worst affected. Vodafone Idea has also filed for a review of some components that make up AGR.

The court is yet to admit both the review petitions.
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As per the communications ministry’s submissions in Parliament, Airtel needs to pay Rs 21,682 crore as licence fee and Rs 13,904 crore as spectrum usage charges. Telecom service providers including Airtel pay 8% of AGR as licence fee.

In a letter to telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Airtel wanted interest to be levied only from the date of the AGR judgment and a 16-year payment period for all the dues after a moratorium of two years.

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