SC Pulls Up Centre for Demanding Rs 4 Lakh Crore from PSUs

The apex court termed the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) demand from PSUs ‘totally impermissible’.

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The Supreme Court on Thursday, 11 June, pulled up Centre for misinterpreting its previous verdict on Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) and demanding Rs 4 lakh crore from state-run companies as AGR.

The apex court termed the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) demand ‘totally impermissible’.

A bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah, said its judgment was silent on the public sector companies, and told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the DoT, the telecom dues demands against PSUs must be withdrawn.

When Mehta said PSUs held telecom spectrum, the Bench asked Mehta how the government used the AGR judgment to devise a formula to raise demands from PSUs when the judgment didn't deal with the issue.

Moving forward, all telecom companies have to file affidavits on how they will pay the rest of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues, the Supreme Court said.

The telecom companies' total AGR dues are a staggering Rs 1.47 lakh crore.

In the previous hearing on 18 March, the apex court had slammed the Centre and telecom companies for not complying with its order on the payment of dues and penalties.

“Actions of telecom companies tantamount to seeking to bypass our judgment. All dues as per our judgment will have to be paid, including interest and penalty,” the court had said, reports IANS.

The court had held that no self-assessment can be done on AGR dues and no further objection on its verdict would be entertained.

While hearing Centre's plea granting a 20-year window for the payment of dues by telecom firms, the court asked where did the concept of self-assessment come in.

“Who permitted self-assessment without permission of this court? This is sheer contempt of court,” the bench had said then.

“If reassessment is permitted – it is fraud on this court,” Justice Mishra had insisted, emphasising that this was a question of the prestige of the apex court.

The Centre had cited adverse impact on the economy, telecom sector and banking sectors.

The top court also noted that the government, in the AGR case, fought tooth and nail, and suggested penalties during its arguments. "Now it wants to do away with the interest," it queried Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Department of Telecommunications.

The bench, comprising Justices Mishra, Nazeer and Shah, had upheld the Department of Telecommunications’ definition of AGR in the court ruling on 24 October 2019.

(With inputs from IANS)

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