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China: Ties with Lanka based on ‘equal-footed consultation’

“We were never to give control of the port to China; that was a mistake,” President Rajapaksa said, pointing out the decision was made by the previous administration.

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Sri Lanka Hambantota Port

Colombo, Nov 30 : Days after Sri Lanka’s new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa called the Hambantota Port lease agreement with China a “mistake” and said it should be renegotiated, China in a statement said the cooperation between the two countries was based on “equal-footed consultation and win-win spirit”.

Responding to an email query by the Daily Mirror, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “Our cooperation, including the project of Hambantota Port, is based on equal-footed consultation and win-win spirit. It aims to help Sri Lanka to leverage the country’s own advantage for better development.

“China would like to work with Sri Lanka to build the Hambantota Port into a new shipping hub in the Indian Ocean, which will further boost local economic and social development.”

A spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy in Colombo, Luo Chong, told the Daily Mirror that the Hambantota Port was “totally owned and controlled” by Sri Lanka and any approvals and decisions regarding the port were to be taken by the Sri Lankan side.

“It is a joint venture and any approvals, including calling of ships at the Hambantota Port, is entirely Sri Lanka’s decision,” Luo said, the newspaper reported.

President Rajapaksa, in his first interview since taking office, said that while he remained committed to close ties with both China and India, he would re-negotiate the Hambantota Port lease agreement with China, terming it a “mistake” and calling on the Chinese company to be open to the move.

“We were never to give control of the port to China; that was a mistake,” President Rajapaksa said, pointing out the decision was made by the previous administration.

“The previous government gave it on a 99-year lease, and even though China is a good friend of ours and we need their assistance for development, I am not afraid to say that was a mistake.”

The President stated he would request the Chinese to renegotiate the joint venture and come with a better deal to assist Sri Lanka.

In July 2017, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority entered into a partnership with China Merchants Port Holdings (CM Port) to develop and manage the port.

Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2017 agreed to lease the port for 99 years to a venture led by China Merchants Port Holdings Co. in return for $1.1 billion.

Business

Airtel considers filing curative petition on AGR

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New Delhi, Jan 16 : Moments after the Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed review petitions by telcos challenging its verdict in the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) case, Bharti Airtel said it is considering filing a curative petition in the matter.

Curative petition is the last constitutional remedy available to a person whose review petition has been dismissed by the Supreme Court.

The telecom major in a statement expressed disappointment and noted that the AGR dues would further impact the industry which is already reeling under a severe financial stress.

“While respecting the Supreme Court’s decision, we would like to express our disappointment as we believe the long standing disputes raised regarding the AGR definition were bonafide and genuine,” Bharti Airtel said.

The industry needs to continue to invest in expanding networks, acquiring spectrum and introducing new technologies like 5G, it said, adding that the money now required to pay — punitive interest, penalty and interest on penalty — which forms nearly 75 per cent of AGR dues, would have better served the digital mission of the country.

“We are evaluating filing a curative petition,” the statement added.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices S.A. Nazeer and M.R. Shah found no merit in the review petitions and dismissed it.

The final deadline for the telecom companies to pay Rs 1.47 lakh is on January 23.

The Telecom Ministry in November told Parliament that telcos owe nearly Rs 1.47 lakh crore in license fee (LF) and spectrum usage charges (SUC).

The total amount is split in two halves — license fee comes to Rs 92,642 crore as of July 2019 and SUC comes to Rs 55,054 crore as of October 2019.

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea hold the majority of these liabilities, which emerge from these dues.

For Bharti Airtel, dues are around Rs 35,586 crore — Rs 21,682 crore as LF and Rs 13,904 crore as SUC and for Vodafone Idea the dues amount to Rs 53,038 crore, of which Rs 28,309 crore in LF and Rs 24,730 crore in SUC.

Airtel has raised $3 billion through a qualified institutional placement (QIP) and an overseas bond to repay the government dues. While Vodafone Idea Ltd has changed the terms of its rights issue to partly use the proceeds for the AGR dues.

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India

SC dismisses telcos’ pleas seeking review of its AGR verdict

The Department of Telecom (DoT) total demand is estimated around Rs 92,000 crore.

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New Delhi, Jan 16 : In a big blow to the telecom companies, the Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the review petitions challenging its verdict in the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) case.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices S.A. Nazeer and M.R. Shah found no merit in the review petitions and dismissed it.

Responding to the top court’s dismissal of the crucial petition, Airtel expressed disappointment and said that it was evaluating filing a curative petition.

The final deadline for the telecom companies to pay Rs 1.47 lakh is on January 23.

The Telecom Ministry in November told Parliament that telcos owe nearly Rs 1.47 lakh crore in license fee (LF) and spectrum usage charges (SUC).

The total amount is split in two halves — license fee comes to Rs 92,642 crore as of July 2019 and SUC comes to Rs 55,054 crore as of October 2019.

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea hold the majority of these liabilities, which emerge from these dues.

For Bharti Airtel, dues are around Rs 35,586 crore — Rs 21,682 crore as LF and Rs 13,904 crore as SUC and for Vodafone Idea the dues amount to Rs 53,038 crore, of which Rs 28,309 crore in LF and Rs 24,730 crore in SUC.

The Supreme Court had ordered telecom carriers, including telco majors Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Vodafone Idea Ltd., to pay the government as much as Rs 92,000 crore ($13 billion) in past dues, which includes penalties and interest.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said telcos will have to shell out the dues.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) total demand is estimated around Rs 92,000 crore.

“We allow the appeals of the DoT…. The gross revenue will prevail as defined as gross revenue,” said the court citing no further exercise should take place in connection with the re-calculations regarding the dues.

The top court specified that there should not be any further litigation on the matter.

It also passed a separate order on the specific time frame for the telcos to pay their dues.

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Supreme Court to consider in-chamber review pleas on AGR verdict

Telecom firms are supposed to pay Rs 92,000 crore in dues by January 23 following the court order in October last year.

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New Delhi, Jan 15 : The Supreme Court will on Thursday take up in-chambers the petitions seeking review of its verdict on the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR), which allowed Centre’s plea to recover Rs 92,000 crore from telecom companies.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices S.A. Nazeer and M.R. Shah will consider the review petitions of the telecom operators, though, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel had sought an open court hearing on their pleas.

The review petitions were mentioned before Justice Arun Mishra after the court reopened after vacations. Justice Mishra had said he would speak with the Chief Justice S.A. Bobde on the matter.

In the in-chamber review, the petitions are circulated among the judges on the bench and there is no lawyer to argue the matter.

Telecom firms are supposed to pay Rs 92,000 crore in dues by January 23 following the court order in October last year.

The Supreme Court had ordered telecom firms, including Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Vodafone Idea Ltd., to pay the government as much as Rs 92,000 crore ($13 billion) in dues, which include penalties and interest.

In the verdict, a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had said telcom companies will have to shell out the dues. The Department of Telecom’s (DoT) total demand is estimated around Rs 92,000 crore.

“We allow the appeals of the DoT… The gross revenue will prevail as defined as gross revenue”, said the court citing no further exercise should take place in connection with the re-calculations regarding the dues.

The top court specified that there should not be any further litigation on the matter. The apex court also passed a separate order on the specific time frame for the telecom companies to pay their dues.

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