Review plea in Supreme Court: Telcos seek interest fee, penalty waiver

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Published: November 23, 2019 1:50:55 AM

Of the total Rs 1.47 lakh crore of dues which the companies are required to pay within January 24, 2020, as a result of the apex court’s order, nearly 75% comprises interest, penalty and interest on penalty.

The operators have urged for the waiver keeping in context the overall financial hardship being faced by the industry. The operators have urged for the waiver keeping in context the overall financial hardship being faced by the industry.

Telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and Tata Teleservices on Friday separately moved the Supreme Court seeking a limited review of its October 24 order which asks the companies to pay licence fee and spectrum usage charges on their overall revenues — those accruing from even streams which are not part of telecom licence — within three months.

The companies through their separate petitions have sought waiver of interest, penalty and interest on penalty. Of the total Rs 1.47 lakh crore of dues which the companies are required to pay within January 24, 2020, as a result of the apex court’s order, nearly 75% comprises interest, penalty and interest on penalty.

Of the overall Rs 1.47 lakh crore, the licence fee dues stand at Rs 92,642 crore and SUC is at Rs 55,054 crore. The bulk of the dues are payable by Vodafone Idea at Rs 53,039 crore, while Bharti Airtel needs to pay Rs 35,586 crore.

Of the total licence fee dues demand of Rs 21,682 crore raised on Bharti Airtel, interest, penalty and interest on penalty comprises `16,152 crore. Similarly, for Vodafone Idea of the total licence fee due raised of Rs 28,309 crore, Rs 21,435 crore is on account of interest, penalty and interest on penalty.

Since the order to pay up the amount came from the Supreme Court, the government is unwilling to provide any relief to the operators on this front and instead is understood to have directed them to seek review from the apex court. If the operators are able to get any relief from the court, the government will go by it.

The operators have urged for the waiver keeping in context the overall financial hardship being faced by the industry. Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel together posted a loss of around Rs 74,000 crore last week after provisioning for the AGR-related dues.

Though the government on Wednesday cleared a package that offered some cash flow relief for the operators by way of giving them a two-year moratorium from paying their deferred spectrum dues, the relief which totals Rs 42,000 crore will be of no use since the AGR-related dues are much higher than that. The cash flow relief for Bharti Airtel will be Rs 11,476 crore; for Vodafone Idea Rs 23,920 crore; and Rs 6,670 crore for Jio. The operators will have to pay interest costs of the amounts that have been deferred.

In this context, a relief on AGR front is crucial for the industry’s survival. The industry’s survival is also critical for the government as the operators owe it over Rs 4 lakh crore if AGR dues, deferred spectrum installments and one-time spectrum charge are taken into account.

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