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Supreme Court asks DoT not to invoke Airtel bank guarantee

On August 17, however, the DoT had sent demand notices for the payment of these dues within the week, failing which Bharti Airtel’s bank guarantees would be invoked.

Published: 25th August 2021 11:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th August 2021 11:07 AM   |  A+A-

Supreme Court

Supreme Court (File Photo| EPS)

By Express News Service

CHENNAI:  Bharti Airtel on Tuesday got three weeks time from the Supreme Court after the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) threatened to invoke the company’s bank guarantees to recover Rs 1,376 crore in pending AGR dues for spectrum sold to it by bankrupt Videocon Telecom (VTL).

While the SC said that Airtel would have to approach the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) with the argument that it wasn’t liable to pay Videocon’s AGR dues, it nevertheless directed the DoT to not invoke the company’s bank guarantees for three weeks.

The bench comprising justices L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah made it clear that the SC would not “interfere” with the earlier AGR judgement, but “it will give (Airtel) the liberty to withdraw to approach the appropriate forum”.

In October 2019, the SC had ruled in favour of a broader definition of AGR which would include non-telecom revenues too. Since AGR is the basis on which statutory dues are paid, the court had directed telcos to pay pending AGR dues running up to as much as Rs 1.52 lakh crore. The SC subsequently allowed telcos to pay the dues in annual instalments spread over a 10-year timeframe.

While Airtel has already paid Rs 18,004 crore out of its total AGR liabilities of Rs 43,000 crore, it has disagreed with the DoT’s stance that it is also liable for the Rs 1,376 crore that Videocon Telecom would have to pay. Airtel had bought the spectrum assets currently under scrutiny from Videocon Telecom in 2016 and has held that the AGR liability would have to be fixed on the seller, and not the buyer. 

On August 17, however, the DoT had sent demand notices for the payment of these dues within the week, failing which Bharti Airtel’s bank guarantees would be invoked.

AGR liabilties on seller, says Airtel
Airtel had bought the spectrum assets currently under scrutiny from Videocon Telecom in 2016 and has held that the AGR liability would have to be fixed on the seller, and not the buyer



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