New Delhi: Twelve private wireless companies owe Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) 460 crore in carriage charges, the state-run firm told the Supreme Court on Monday.

Solicitor general Gopal Subramanium, appearing for BSNL, told the apex court the dues from 2005 to 2009 were impairing the functioning of India’s largest government-owned telecom service operator.

Opposing views: Bharti Airtel, RCom and Tata Teleservices gave the court details of their dues to BSNL, which add up to Rs170 crore. Pradeep Gaur / Mint

BSNL collects carriage charges to forward calls originating from private cellular networks to its network.

The court has granted the private firms—represented by the Cellular Operators Association of India (Coai)—two weeks to submit a break-up of the sums owed to BSNL.

Coai’s advocate G.S. Vaidyanathan said the firms do not have records of how much they owe BSNL.

“We don’t have such figures. BSNL has the figures," he told the court.

According to Subramanium, the 12 firms owe BSNL 58-60 crore each on average. Vaidyanathan said the average money owed is 15-20 crore, but he could not substantiate the claim without a record of calls.

Bharti Airtel Ltd, Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom) and Tata Teleservices Ltd—among India’s top cellular operators—gave the court details of their dues to BSNL, which add up to 170 crore.

BSNL and private operators have been at opposing ends over carriage charges since 2006.

On 27 July, Coai and the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India moved the apex court challenging an telecom disputes settlement and appellate tribunal’s order to set aside the telecom regulator’s proposal for uniform carriage charges.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had proposed a uniform carriage charge of 20 paise for intra-circle calls and a ceiling of 65 paise per minute for long-distance calls effective February 2006.

“BSNL wants that the carriage charge should be based on distance, while Coai is opposed to this," said Rajan Mathews, director general of Coai. “We are contending that it should be a flat fee."

Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia asked the private cellular firms to deposit 50% of the dues with the apex court, but did not pass a formal order as the details of the dues were not clear.

At the next hearing, the court will try to determine the dues from each operator.

Counsels for RCom and Tata Teleservices told the court BSNL owes some private operators, including the two firms, a total of 131 crore, as the state-run company has withheld payments citing outstanding amounts.

BSNL executives declined to comment on the issue.