Bharti Airtel, which has to pay  ₹35,586 crore to the govt by 24 Jan, and Vodafone Idea, which owes the govt  ₹50,000 crore, had on Thursday also said they were evaluating filing curative petitions (Photo: Mint)
Bharti Airtel, which has to pay 35,586 crore to the govt by 24 Jan, and Vodafone Idea, which owes the govt 50,000 crore, had on Thursday also said they were evaluating filing curative petitions (Photo: Mint)

Vodafone Idea, Airtel, Tata file joint plea in SC for more time to pay AGR dues

  • Modification application, in which telcos may present a definite payment plan, is likely to be heard in SC on Tuesday
  • The modification application is the final attempt by the debt-laden telcos to negotiate for an easier payment schedule with the DoT

NEW DELHI : Vodafone Idea Ltd, Bharti Airtel Ltd and Tata Teleservices Ltd have jointly filed a modification application in the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking more time to pay the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues to the government.

“The application has been filed and the matter is likely to be heard on Tuesday," said Shally Bhasin, partner, Agarwal Law Associates, representing Vodafone Idea.

This is the final attempt by the debt-laden operators to negotiate for an easier payment schedule with the department of telecommunications (DoT) and get an extension to the 23 January deadline.

“Telcos should have filed a modification application much before the review plea. With only two days remaining, the chances to get an immediate relief on the modification application are low. Nevertheless, this is the last attempt for help by the telcos. They will try and present a definite payment plan for the court to consider," said Saurav Kumar, partner, IndusLaw.

Last week, the Supreme Court had dismissed the review petitions filed by telcos to alter its earlier judgement, which set a three-month deadline for telecom operators to pay the over 1 trillion in AGR dues.

Bharti Airtel, which has to pay 35,586 crore to the government by 23 January, and Vodafone Idea, which owes 50,000 crore, had on Thursday said that they were evaluating the possibility of filing curative petitions.

The apex court’s refusal to review its order has dealt a blow to Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, which reported record losses in the September quarter, as they set aside funds to pay the dues.

Without any relief from the court, the operators will have to pay the dues within the next three days.

Telecom operators, including Bharti Airtel, had challenged the method adopted by the department of telecommunications to calculate AGR. Licence and spectrum charges are calculated at 8% and 3-5% of AGR, respectively.

The 24 October Supreme Court order upheld the government’s definition of revenue, which defined AGR as all revenues of a licence holder, including those from non-core telecom operations, such as rent, dividend and interest income.

Bharti Airtel has raised $3 billion and plans to use a portion of the proceeds to meet its AGR liabilities. However, it is unclear how Vodafone Idea will raise resources to pay its dues.

Last month, Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla said that the group’s telecom unit, Vodafone Idea, will have to shut shop if there was no relief from the government following the AGR verdict.

Tata Teleservices, which had sold its mobile services business to Airtel, has dues of 14,000 crore.

Email queries to Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices did not elicit any response till press time.

The October verdict also made non-telecom companies holding licences for internal communications and signalling, liable to pay licence fees on their entire revenue, even if they do not offer consumer-facing telecom services.

DoT has sought 1.72 trillion from GAIL (India) Ltd, 22,168 crore from Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd, 15,019 crore from Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd, and 290 crore from RailTel Corp. of India Ltd.

GAIL (India), however, maintains that it is not liable to pay. “GAIL (India) Ltd obtained ISP licence in 2002 for 15 years, which expired in 2017. As no business was done under ISP licence, there is no amount payable," a company spokesperson told Mint in an email response on 9 January.

The DoT has also sent a 48,000-crore demand notice to Oil India Ltd in past dues, an order which the firm plans to challenge before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, PTI reported on Monday, citing Oil India chairman and managing director Sushil Chandra Mishra.

Close
×
My Reads Logout