New Delhi: The DoT has sought Rs 7,608 crore in dues from GAIL India for 2017-18 as the department appeared to be not pressing for immediate payment of Rs 1.83 lakh crore in past dues it had previously assessed from the state-owned gas utility. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) sent a notice to GAIL soon after the February 14 hearing in the Supreme Court on dues owned by telecom companies such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, sources privy to the development said. The dues now being sought from GAIL include a penalty for late payment, they said.
The Supreme Court's original ruling in October last year led the DoT to demand Rs 1.47 lakh crore in unpaid dues on licence fees and spectrum usage charges from telecom companies such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. Its demand related to a 14-year-old dispute regarding the definition of adjusted gross revenue (AGR), which the Supreme Court agreed should include all kinds of income generated by the telcos.
Alongside, the DoT also raised a demand of over Rs 3 lakh crore from non-telecom PSUs such as GAIL, Oil India and PowerGrid for telecom licences these firms had primarily acquired for internal communication purposes. For GAIL, the DoT assessed an outstanding of Rs 1,83,076 crore towards annual licence fee in respect of IP-II Licence. This included interests and penalty, sources said.
GAIL and other non-telecom firms felt the October 2019 ruling of the Supreme Court did not apply to them and filed petitions seeking clarification from the apex court. On February 14, the Supreme Court rejected telcos' petition regarding relaxation in the payments. To non-telecom firms, it asked to approach appropriate forums for redressal of their grievance.
Refusing to comment on the DoT demand, GAIL Chairman and Managing Director Manoj Jain said the Supreme Court on February 14 allowing the non-telecom firms to withdraw their petition is indicative enough that "our case is different" than telcos'. "We are working on what appropriate forum should we go to for an appeal against the DoT order," he said. "We have already paid whatever was due and according to us there is no outstanding."
On the Rs 1.83 lakh crore assessment by the DoT, GAIL had previously in a regulatory filing stated that these were unrelated to the terms and conditions of its IP-II Licence. "Based on the legal option sought in this regard and facts of the case, the company is of the view, that the amount assessed in provisional assessment orders is legally not tenable," it had said.
The DoT had computed dues of non-telecom PSUs by simply taking all their revenues earned such as oil and gas operations and levying licence fees. Sources said while the DoT had sought Rs 48,489 crore in past dues from Oil India on the surplus bandwidth capacity it had leased to third parties, Power Grid Corp was slapped with Rs 21,953.65 crore liability. Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals faces a payout of Rs 15,019.97 crore.
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.
OIL, the nation's second-biggest state-owned oil producer, holds a National Long Distance Service Licence (NLD) with the primary objective of monitoring and operation of its pipeline network.
The surplus bandwidth capacity available with the company was leased out to telecom operators/other users, on which the company regularly paid the applicable licence fee to the telecom department (DoT).
PowerGrid, which holds NLD and Internet Service Provider (ISP) licences, was asked to pay Rs 21,953.65crore (including interest and penalty) for 2012-13 to 2017-18 by adding revenue related to power transmission and consultancy as 'miscellaneous income' in adjusted grossrevenue, sources said.
Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals, which had a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) and a Category 'A' ISP, was asked to pay Rs 15,019.97 crore for 2005-06 to 2018-19.