No coercive action for missing AGR date

The Department of Telecom will not take any ‘coercive’ action against telecom companies that fail to meet the January 23 deadline to pay dues related to adjusted gross revenue (AGR).

“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,” a directive from DoT’s Licensing Finance Policy Wing sent to its Controllers of Communication Accounts (CCAs) and Controller General of Communication Accounts (CGCA), said.

The Licensing Finance Policy Wing, in its order, has also sought a detailed status report of compliance to be sent to the CGCA by January 24. According to sources, while Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have sought more time to pay their dues, given that the Supreme Court would hear their plea to modify its October 24 order next week, Reliance Jio has paid about Rs. 195 crore to the telecom department to clear all AGR-related dues up till January 31, 2020.

Both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India had approached the DoT, requesting the government to wait for the Supreme Court’s direction on the modification plea filed by them.

‘Willing to comply’

They had, however, clarified that they were willing to comply with the apex court’s order, the source added.

The two firms are among the worst impacted by the Supreme Court order. In the case of Bharti Airtel, the liabilities add up to nearly Rs. 35,586 crore, of which Rs. 21,682 crore is licence fee and Rs. 13,904.01 crore SUC dues (excluding dues of Telenor and Tata Teleservices).

In the case of Vodafone Idea, the number stands at a cumulative Rs. 53,038 crore, including Rs. 24,729 crore of SUC dues and Rs. 28,309 crore in licence fee. Following the Supreme Court’s October 24 order on calculation of AGR in favour of the government, telecom operators together owe the government around Rs. 1.47 lakh crore in licence fees and spectrum usage charge, including interest and penalties.

The Supreme Court had asked the telcos to clear the dues within three months.

While the telcos had filed a review petition, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, earlier this month, dismissed petitions filed by them.

The operators — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices — have since then filed a modification plea, seeking more time to pay the statutory dues.

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