Bharti Airtel has offered to pay Rs 10,000 crore as part of adjusted gross revenues charges by February 20 and promised to clear the remaining balance well before March 17, the company said in a letter to the Department of Telecommunications. “In compliance with the judgement of the Supreme Court and its direction today we shall deposit a sum of Rs 10,000 crore by February 20 on behalf of Bharti Group companies (Bharti Airtel, Bharti Hexacom and Telenor India),” the letter read. The move comes after the telecom department directed all companies to pay their AGR dues by the end of Friday after criticism from the Supreme Court.
DoT Asks Telcos to Clear Dues Immediately
The DoT began issuing notices to companies to “make the payment of outstanding dues of license fee and spectrum usage charge by 14.02.2020, 11.59 p.m., positively.” Airtel, however, sought more time to clear the outstanding dues saying that they are in the process of completing self-assessment for 22 circles and multiple licenses which is a complicated time-consuming process. Airtel owes dues of nearly Rs 35m000 crores, including license fee and usage charges to the government.
“We are confident that we will complete the self-assessment exercise shortly and make the balance payment well before the next date of hearing of the Supreme Court,” the letter said. The next date of hearing is on March 17.
Supreme Court Goes Hard at DoT and Telcos for Not Clearing Dues on Time
On Friday, the apex court pulled both the government and telecom companies for not abiding by their order of clearing dues over Rs 1.47 lakh crores by January 23. The DoT then began issuing circle or zone-wise demand notices to firms. The department also withdrew its January 23 order that promised they wouldn’t take strict action against telcos for failing to pay before the court-mandated deadline.
“The order dated 23 January stands withdrawn with immediate effect,” the DoT said in a letter dated February 14.
Meanwhile, Vodafone Idea, however, has remained mum over the issue. Previously, the company chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla had sounded warning over the issue saying it may have to fold its operations, if forced to pay dues of over Rs 53,000 crores. This judgement from the Supreme Court will put the future of Vodafone Idea in jeopardy as Vodafone might pull out from the merged entity.
Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.