NEW DELHI: The government has detached gas utility GAIL India, explorer Oil India and other PSUs from a Supreme Court order that had led to Rs 1.47 lakh crore being sought from telecom firms such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea in past dues, the Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday.
Following the October 24 order of the Supreme Court asking inclusion of non-telecom revenues for calculating statutory dues such as license fee and spectrum charges of telecom firms, the Department of Telecommunications has sought a cumulative Rs 2.7 lakh crore from GAIL and other non-telecom PSUs.
The demand was challenged by state-owned firms. "Supreme Court has detached the public sector undertakings (PSUs) from the AGR judgment dated October 24, 2019, and directed them to seek relief from an appropriate forum," MoS Communications Sanjay Dhotre said in a written reply to a question in the Lower House of Parliament.
The DoT had sought Rs 1.83 lakh crore from GAIL and Rs 48,489 crore from OIL by including their revenues from oil and gas business in calculating dues for leasing out surplus bandwidth capacity to third parties.
Power Grid Corp was slapped with Rs 21,953.65 crore liability and Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd faced Rs 15,019.97 crore demand. RailTel and Delhi Metro too faced similar demands. "Public sector undertakings such as GAIL, Oil India, etc represented to Department of Telecom that the AGR judgment is not applicable on them and therefore they do not owe any dues to the Department of Telecom," Dhotre said.
The challenge to such demand was heard by the apex court last month. "After the Supreme Court order dated February 14, 2020, the government abides by the orders of Supreme Court," he said. On February 14, the Supreme Court had pulled up the DoT for not enforcing its October 24 order that gave telcos three months' time to pay dues.
Hours later, the DoT sent notices to Airtel and Vodafone Idea asking them to clear dues immediately. To a separate question, Dhotre said the government has received Rs 15,896.5 crore payment from telecom companies towards AGR liabilities and Rs 1,30,440.4 crore remained to be paid.
This number, however, does not seem to reflect the latest tranche of payment made by Bharti Airtel on February 29. Detailing out payments made by telecom companies to the DoT towards statutory dues, Dhotre informed that against the provisional total dues of Rs 1,46,336.9 crore, payment to the tune of Rs 15,896.5 crore has been received.
Bharti Airtel paid Rs 10,000 crore, with Rs 27,740 crore balance remaining, he said, adding Vodafone Idea has paid Rs 3,500 crore and Rs 49,538 crore remained due. Similarly, Tata Group paid Rs 2,197.3 crore, and Rs 11,625 crore remained due.
OIL, the nation's second-biggest state-owned oil producer, holds a National Long Distance Service Licence (NLD) with primary objective of monitoring and operation of its pipeline network.
The surplus bandwidth capacity available with the company was leased out to the telecom operators/other users, on which the company regularly paid the applicable license fee to the telecom department (DoT).
But, after the October 24 Supreme Court ruling for including non-telecom revenues for calculating dues, the DoT included all revenues from oil and gas to seek Rs 48,489 crore from the company for the period from 2007-08 to 2018-19.
In case of GAIL, which held a IP-II licence, the DoT assessed Rs 1,83,076 crore as outstanding after including interest and penalty computed on the entire revenue of the company. PowerGrid, which holds NLD and Internet Service Provider (ISP) licences, was asked to pay Rs 21,953.65 crore (including interest and penalty) for FY 2012-13 to FY 2017-18 by adding revenue related to power transmission and consultancy as 'miscellaneous income' in adjusted gross revenue, company sources said, adding the firm will approach the TDSAT in next few days.
Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd, which had a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) and a Category 'A' ISP, was asked to pay Rs 15,019.97 crore for the financial year 2005-06 to 2018-19.