“We have received a communication from Vodafone Idea which says the company is waiting for the Supreme Court decision on its plea (for) allowing it to negotiate with the DoT terms and timeline for payment of AGR dues before it takes any further steps on the matter,” a senior government official told ET. “It is true that the apex court has agreed to hear the modification pleas of telcos and it hasn’t categorically stated that the telcos need to deposit AGR dues or that they do not need to — it is technically a grey area.”
Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel didn’t respond to queries.
DoT will refrain from any coercive action such as issuing show-cause notices asking the phone companies why their permits shouldn’t be cancelled, he said. The department will wait until January 24, a day after the deadline stipulated by the court in October, before it embarks on the next course of action, which could include seeking a legal opinion on the matter. “Or the government could just wait for the next court hearing and place the facts as they stand before the court,” the official said.
Rs 30,000 Cr Initial Payment
It could inform the court that the telcos hadn’t paid any dues and the department hadn’t taken any action out of deference to the apex court decision on January 21 to hear the modification pleas.
Vodafone Idea, Bharti Telecom and Tata Teleservices owe an aggregate Rs 1.02 lakh crore in AGR-related dues. The phone companies were said to be initially planning to pay some part of this by the deadline but then took the view that the apex court’s decision to hear the modification petitions meant they could wait for its ruling on the matter.
On Wednesday, the apex court agreed to hear next week the modification pleas filed by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to allow the telcos to negotiate with DoT on the conditions and payment schedules of the statutory dues. Last week, the court had rejected a review petition filed by the phone on the October verdict, which widened the definition of AGR, which telecom sector companies owed the government about Rs 1.47 lakh crore. The court also said the money had to be paid in three months, or by January 23.
The department, which had expected to collect up to Rs 30,000 crore from the affected telcos by that date as initial payment, is said to be considering its next course of action. As reported by ET on January 22, DoT was hoping to discuss terms and timelines for spreading the payment of statutory dues with the telecom operators once they paid a certain amount and before the next court hearing.
Meanwhile, Reliance Jio Infocomm could well be the only operator to pay up its entire AGR dues of under Rs 200 crore, people close to the situation told ET.
Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel face statutory dues of Rs 53,039 crore and Rs 35,586 crore, respectively, as per government disclosures to parliament. Tata Teleservices, which has sold its consumer mobility business to Bharti Airtel, faces dues of Rs 13,823 crore.
Vodafone Idea had said in its modification plea that it will have to shut if there’s no relaxation on payment terms.
“If a suitable and appropriate arrangement is not made available, it will lead to immediate closure of one of the oldest and largest telecom companies in India,” according to the petition.
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12 Comments on this Story
Krishna Swaroop364 days ago
Ultimately looser will be consumers only if Telecom companies pay or don't pay .
jlal365 days ago
Attach all their assets. They are going to drag for a few more years and then raise their hands so that they get time to divert funds and empty the coffers like Nokia.
srini sarva365 days ago
Unfortunately there is no clarity between capitalists and bueracrats. STRONG REGULATIONS AND JUDICIAL SYSTEMS are the need of the hour...