Supreme Court set to pronounce AGR verdict today, Vodafone-Idea's fate hangs by a thread

Supreme Court set to pronounce AGR verdict today, Vodafone-Idea's fate hangs by a thread

The Supreme Court is expected to pronounce a crucial verdict today (Tuesday) on the payment timelines of the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues of over Rs 1.6 lakh crore, a ruling which could decide the fate of Vodafone Idea.

The government has sought a 20-year time frame for telcos to pay back their balance AGR dues, while the two most affected telcos- Vodafone Idea (over Rs 50,400 crore balance dues) and Bharti Airtel NSE 1.15 % (nearly Rs 26,000 crore balance) have sought 15 years. Vodafone Idea has warned it would be forced to shut shop if made to pay its dues at one go.

As per the cause list, a three-judge bench led by Justice Arun Mishra, and comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah will also take a call on two other issues - on whether spectrum – or the right to use it – can be transferred under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, and whether past AGR dues of bankrupt telcos such as Reliance Communications (nearly Rs 26,000 crore), Aircel (nearly Rs 14,000 crore) and Videocon (Rs 1400 crore) should be paid by companies such as Reliance Jio and Airtel, who have been using the spectrum of the ailing telcos through either spectrum sharing or trading contracts.

The main AGR verdict is expected to end a 16-year plus court battle between the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and operators. The verdict comes in just before Justice Mishra demits office on September 3. In an October 2019 verdict, the same bench had backed DoT's stance, widening the definition of AGR to include non-core items.

 This left several telcos - many of whom had exited or merged into surviving carriers - facing AGR dues of over Rs 1.6 lakh crore, including license fees, spectrum usage charges, interest and penalties.

While VIL has so far paid Rs 7854 crore, Airtel has paid over Rs 18,000 crore. Reliance Jio which started operations in 2016 has been least affected by the AGR case and has cleared its dues of Rs 195 crore. 
Besides the staggered payment timeline , Tuesday's order will also seal the fate of insolvencies of Reliance Communications (RCom NSE -4.17 % ) and Aircel who have found buyers for their most important aspect-spectrum, but DoT has refused to give its nod unless AGR dues are cleared.