Bharti Airtel, India’s second-largest telco, had flared up the highly debated question from the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues case last year. The Supreme Court (SC) had posed a fundamental question asking should the telcos be able to sell spectrum if they have pending AGR dues on it.
Later on, the question came down to the principle of ‘which’ party will pay the dues. Should the telco ‘selling' the spectrum still be liable after freeing the airwaves from its portfolio, or are the dues a liability of the ‘current holder’ of the spectrum.
According to an ET Telecom report, Bharti Airtel has denied clearing the AGR liability on the spectrum it purchased from Videocon. Airtel acquired the concerned spectrum from Videocon in 2016.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has filed an affidavit in the SC saying that Airtel is denying to pay the Rs 1,376 crores worth of AGR dues that Videocon had to pay. DoT had asked Airtel to pay the dues of Videocon back in October 2020 and again in February 2020.
But the telco had replied each time that it is not liable to pay off another company's debt. Airtel believes that the said amount is a liability of Videocon, and thus it won’t pay DoT the amount it is looking for.
Airtel said that it is not liable to pay any outstanding dues of Videocon, be it AGR dues, spectrum usage charges (SUC), or License fee (LF) dues. For the unaware, Airtel had purchased spectrum in 2016 in six circles from Videocon in the 1800 MHz frequency band for Rs 4,428 crores.
Adding to this, DoT has filed an affidavit against the telcos for not paying the 10% advance on AGR dues. The telcos have said that they had already paid more than what the SC had asked them to. Airtel believes that it doesn’t need to pay any AGR dues for the next four instalments.