New Delhi: The government will not take coercive action against mobile service providers that failed to meet the court-directed 23 January deadline to pay dues, after Vodafone Idea Ltd and Bharti Airtel Ltd sought more time.
“You are directed not to take any coercive action against the licencees in case they fail to comply with the Supreme Court order, until further orders," the licencing finance policy wing of the department of telecommunications (DoT) said in an internal letter on 23 January. DoT will also submit a detailed compliance report by 5pm on Friday, said the letter. Mint has reviewed a copy of the letter.
Meanwhile, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, the mobile service provider least affected by the Supreme Court order that directed telcos to pay more than ₹1 trillion in back fees, has paid ₹195 crore to DoT to clear dues related to its licences as of 31 January, a person aware of the matter said on condition of anonymity.
Vodafone Idea, the worst hit by the court’s order, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices will await the hearing of their modification pleas filed in the Supreme Court earlier this week before making payments, they said.
Emails sent to DoT, Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Tata Teleservices and Vodafone Idea were unanswered till press time.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear the pleas filed by Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel, and Tata Teleservices next week, but did not comment on the status of the original payment deadline.
The 24 October order has strained the already precarious financial situation of Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel.
Vodafone Idea owes more than ₹50,000 crore to DoT, while Bharti Airtel has to pay ₹35,586 crore. Tata Teleservices, which sold its mobile services business to Airtel, has dues of ₹14,000 crore.
Among non-telecom companies, DoT has sought ₹1.72 trillion from GAIL (India) Ltd, ₹48,000 crore from Oil India Ltd (OIL), ₹22,168 crore from Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL), ₹15,019 crore from Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd and ₹5,841 crore plus interest from Delhi Metro Rail Corp. Ltd (DMRC), among others.
GAIL and Power Grid approached the Supreme Court on Thursday and their separate clarification pleas are likely to be heard on Friday, two people aware of the matter said on condition of anonymity. Emails sent to GAIL and Power Grid were unanswered till press time.
Oil India filed a modification plea on Wednesday seeking changes to the October verdict. DMRC too moved court on Wednesday seeking clarification, stating that DoT’s demand was unjust.
Mint has seen copies of Oil India’s and DMRC’s petitions.
Gujarat Narmada told stock exchanges on 1 January that it was seeking legal advice on DoT’s demand notice and the judgement.
Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said there seems to be “some miscommunication" as telecom is not a core business of these state-run energy companies. “We will seek exemptions for GAIL, OIL and PGCIL," he said. “We are in discussion with the telecom ministry."
Utpal Bhaskar contributed to this story.