Even after 14 years, when the dispute first arose, there is still no clarity on what should be included/excluded from telecom ‘revenues’ – and since there is no clarity, whichever way the case is finally decided, where is the question of paying a penalty?
Should a foreign exchange gain/loss a Bharti Airtel makes on its African operations be included in this or not? In the initial years, Vodafone operated in India through eight companies which, on occasion, lent money to one another – is this to be included in telecom ‘revenue’ and should the government be given a share of this? Clearly not, you’d think, but that is what the case is all about.
While the new telecom minister can take a call on the CAG report once a decision is taken on what ‘revenue’ is, the decision has larger ramifications. Not including foreign exchange losses, capital gains, or interest earnings on company deposits in ‘revenue’ is an easy decision. But if payments made to other telcos are included in revenue and the government gets license/spectrum fees on this, this will discourage infrastructure sharing; it will also ensure MVNOs never take off. In the rush to apportion blame, no one is talking about the real issue.