As per the sources, the companies are believed to have written to DoT anticipating that failure to make payments by January 23 may lead to DoT issuing show cause notices.
Telecom operators, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices, are believed to have written to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), seeking relief for making payments regarding the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues till the time Supreme Court hears their modification petitions next week. Thursday is the last day to make the payments as the Supreme Court (SC), in its October 24 order, had upheld DoT’s definition of AGR while asking the telecom companies to pay the pending licence fee and spectrum usage charges in three months.
It was, however, not clear if some upfront amount will be paid by operators on Thursday. One person said it will be difficult to calculate the upfront or token amount in the absence of SC decision regarding the modification pleas. Any upfront amount can be calculated when SC agrees to operators’ demand of deferred payments and laying out the payment schedule.
As per the sources, the companies are believed to have written to DoT anticipating that failure to make payments by January 23 may lead to DoT issuing show cause notices. DoT can take action against telcos for failure to make the payments as the deadline of January 23 stands because the SC had rejected all the review petitions.
Reliance Jio is likely to make its payments on Thursday as it has not sought any relief from the government. As per the DoT’s calculations, Jio’s dues are Rs 13 crore as licence fee and `47.52 crore as spectrum usage charges.
DoT, sources, said is not likely to initiate any action against telcos as it too understands the financial problems faced by the industry. A source said that there won’t be any contempt on operators till DoT takes any action or approaches the SC. The source further added that contempt can only be initiated against telecom operators for failure to make payments when DoT approaches SC and tells the court about non-compliance of its October 24, 2019 order.
The telecom operators’ dues are to the tune of Rs 1.47 lakh crore. In a related development, DoT feels that the deadline of January 23 does not apply to non-telecom firms and PSUs like GAIL, Powergrid etc., as well as internet service providers (ISPs) as they were not party to the case.
The non-telecom PSUs together need to pay over Rs 2 lakh crore as AGR dues as a result of the order and if the amount owed by ISPs is also included, the figure swells to over Rs 3 lakh crore.