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Airtel, Voda Idea fail to pay AGR instalment; deadline expired on March 31

Bharti Airtel and Voda­fone Idea (Vi) failed to pay the first instalment towards adjusted gross revenue (AGR) to the Depart­ment of Tele­communications (DoT) on Wednesday. The first instalment had to be paid before March 31.

In a relief to the cash-strapped telecom operators, the Supreme Court (SC) in September had allowed the firms to clear their AGR dues in 10 years and start making upfront payment of 10 per cent of total dues. SC had said any default in payment would invite interest, penalty, and contempt of court.

According to the DoT’s calculations, Bharti Airtel owes the exchequer Rs 43,780 crore, of which the company has paid Rs 18,004 crore.

Vi has paid Rs 7,854 crore of its Rs 50,399-crore dues.

Tata Teleservices has paid Rs 4,197 crore; the balance is Rs 12,601 crore.

Industry sources indicated that the payments to DoT were unlikely, given the matter is in the SC.

The apex court also said the sale of spectrum must be decided by the National Company Law Tribunal under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code process.

On August 19, 2020, SC said the telecom companies only have the right to use spectrum. It said it is not an asset that belongs to them — the companies don’t own it.

On August 14, SC also sought details from telecom operators using airwaves allotted to the now-bankrupt companies, including Aircel and Reliance Communi­cations (RCom).

It directed the Union government, Reliance Jio, and RCom’s resolution professionals to produce docu­ments to ascertain the AGR liabilities of RCom.

On August 10, the court had said the Centre should prepare a plan to recover AGR dues from bankrupt telecom operators, including RCom.

The SC in October 2019 had delivered the verdict on the AGR issue for calculating government dues of telecom companies, such as licence fee and spectrum-usage charges.

SC finished hearing the AGR case on August 24, 2020 — almost a year after its verdict on the definition of AGR.

DoT had raised the AGR dues to telecom companies after the SC crystallised the definition of AGR; similarly, it can be done on dues from bankrupt firms. Business Standard News

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