The Supreme Court's upholding on Thursday of the Department of Telecom's (DoT) decision to collect past dues of around Rs. 92,000 crores from telecom firms like Airtel and Vodafone Idea also includes Reliance Jio, though the amount owed by them is not large, according to the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI). The apex court on Thursday ordered a number of telecom carriers to pay the government as much as Rs. 92,000 crores ($13 billion) in dues, which includes penalties and interest.
"The Supreme Court order includes Jio although the amount owned by them is not very large compared to other operators," COAI Director General Rajan Mathews said without specifying the amount owed by Jio.
According to sources, however, out of the Supreme Court's estimation of Rs. 92,000 crores, Jio's dues stand at Rs. 13 crores.
The row has been on since 2005 when the COAI challenged the government's method of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) calculation to include profit on the sale of fixed assets, dividend, interest and miscellaneous income.
The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has said in 2015 that the AGR includes all receipts, except capital receipts and revenue, from non-core sources such as rent The tribunal ruled that AGR should include, apart from license fees and spectrum user charges, also rent, dividends and profits on the sale of assets.
The Supreme Court has asked 8 carriers to pay the amount. Reliance Communications which has dues of Rs. 16,000 crores has shut shop and exited already.
Airtel has a debt of Rs 1.06 lakh crores and Vodafone Idea (which have merged) have a debt of Rs. 1.15 lakh crores.
Broking firm Morgan Stanley said that if the telecom firms were to eventually have to pay as per the ruling, the potential payments could be $3 billion for Airtel and $4 billion for Vodafone Idea, the report said.
The bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said telecom companies would have to shell out the dues.
The industry has claimed that the AGR only include license and spectrum fees. The government, on the other hand, was insistent that it sould include much more, which would take the dues of the sector to thousands of crores.
Government and telecom firms had challenged the TDSAT order. Telecom firms have to pay around 3 per cent of AGR as spectrum charges and another 8 per cent as license fees.