Three telecom operators — Bharati Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices — are likely to pay their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues of over ₹1 lakh crore on Monday (February 17) in order avoid stringent punitive action from the Telecom Department, an official source told news agency PTI on Sunday.
The three companies, which are jointly liable to pay the dues of over ₹1 lakh crore, have informed the Department of Telecom (DoT) they would make only partial payment, as per their representatives. This comes after the Supreme Court rapped the DoT for not taking steps to recover statutory dues.
“Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices said they will make payments on Monday. DoT will take action after evaluating the amount paid by them,” an official source told PTI. The source added the DoT had sent four notices and reminders to the telecom players for making the payment to avoid punitive action.
On Friday, Bharti Airtel offered to pay ₹10,000 crore by February 20, but a DoT official said that the department can’t grant any extension. Vodafone Idea on Saturday said that it is assessing the amount that can be paid towards AGR dues, even as it flagged concerns over the continuation of its business.
Telecom operators are collectively liable to pay ₹1.47 lakh crore in AGR dues as per the Supreme Court order dated October 24, 2019. The deadline to pay the amount ended on January 23, but none of the telecom operators, except Reliance Jio, paid the amount. Even state-owned BSNL and MTNL did not pay the dues.
As per the last available estimates, Airtel owes nearly ₹35,586 crore, including licence fee and spectrum usage charges, to the government. Vodafone Idea is staring at dues worth ₹53,000 crore, which includes up to ₹24,729 crore of spectrum dues and another ₹28,309 crore in licence fee. Tata Teleservices owes around ₹13,800 crore, BSNL ₹4,989 crore and MTNL ₹3,122 crore.
Out of ₹1.47 lakh crore, around ₹1.13 lakh crore is likely to be recovered, as other companies, which are liable to pay AGR dues, have folded up their businesses. Reliance Communications and Aircel are going through insolvency proceedings.
The apex court had on Friday came down heavily on the Telecom Department for not taking steps to recover statutory dues, estimated to be around ₹1.47 lakh crore from operators. The DoT issued final notice to telecom operators on February 14 for making payment on the same day, but none of the companies paid the dues.
When asked about telecom operators having sought time to assess the amount they have to pay, the DoT official said that the court gave them three months to do so and even after missing January 23 deadline the telecom operators had sufficient time to calculate their dues.
“Before the due date, DoT sent telecom operators four notices and reminders to pay to avoid punitive action under license condition. After court order on modification plea, telecom players are not left with any excuse to delay the payment and DoT can take action against them without any further notice,” the source said.
The apex court pulled up telecom operators and the government on non-payment of AGR dues despite its order. It has asked managing directors and directors of the company to be present in person before court on the next hearing, scheduled for March 17, in case there is violation of its order in the AGR case.
Public sector companies, which do not sell telecom services, owe DoT around ₹2.65 lakh crore, with GAIL India alone owing around 65 per cent of the total amount. However, these PSUs have the option to approach court for a legal recourse.
(With inputs from agencies)