The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Tata Teleservices, and other telecom as well as non-telecom companies to submit documents supporting their claim of self-assessed adjusted gross revenue (AGR) figures, senior DoT officials said.
This, a senior DoT official said, will help the ministry reconcile the companies’ figures with their own number, and help them understand how the numbers arrived at by the companies is lower than the assessment of the ministry.
“This exercise will help us run a time-bound check and test for the AGR dues that are being deposited so far. We have asked them to send the supporting documents as soon as possible,” a senior official said.
The Indian Express had last Friday reported that the DoT was likely to push for the entire payment of AGR dues from telcos before the March 17 hearing in the Supreme Court. Asking the telcos to submit supporting documents is a step in that process, an official said.
“Our calculation says something else and their calculation is much lesser than that. Now, there is a Supreme Court order which says as to how the AGR is to be calculated. So these documents are needed. It is like when there is a dispute in how much tax is to be paid, the tax payer submits documents to show how they arrived at a particular number,” the official said.
As of Thursday last week, Bharti Airtel had paid Rs 10,000 crore of the over Rs 36,000 crore it owed to the DoT, while Vodafone Idea paid Rs 3,500 crore of the Rs 53,000-crore AGR dues it owed. Vodafone Idea paid another Rs 1,000 crore on Thursday, DoT sources confirmed. The Rs 3,500 crore paid by Vodafone Idea is half of its self-assessed AGR principal. Tata Teleservices, which has so far paid Rs 2,197 crore, will be sent another notice in a couple of days, which will seek for payment of the rest of the AGR dues, another DoT official said, on the condition of anonymity.
Apart from private telecom players, state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) have also been asked to calculate their AGR dues and submit a report on it, officials said.
The officials, however, remained tight-lipped about the possibility of a bailout package for telecom companies burdened by the AGR judgment.
The talks of a possible bailout package being offered to the telecom companies started doing rounds after Bharti Airtel founder and chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal and Vodafone Idea chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla met Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in successive days. Mittal had met Prasad at least two times in the past two weeks, in addition to meeting Sitharaman.
Both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are under pressure to complete the remainder of their AGR payments before March 17. The deadline is the next date of hearing in the Supreme Court, which had on February 14 slammed the DoT as well as the companies for failing to make any payments before the stipulated deadline of January 23.
During the hearing on February 14, the apex court had lamented that its orders had not been followed and that the way everyone was behaving suggested there was “no law left in the country”.
On October 24, 2019, the SC had upheld the DoT’s definition of AGR and said since the licencees had agreed to the migration packages, they were liable to pay the dues, the penalty on dues, and the interest on penalty due to delay in payments. The top court had then given the telcos three months to clear their AGR dues.
Nobody wants to kill telecom sector, says SBI chief
Mumbai: State Bank of India (SBI) Chairman Rajnish Kumar on Monday said the government has not yet communicated anything to the country’s largest lender regarding invoking bank guarantees against telecom companies.
Kumar said SBI has received no direction and is “just waiting” in response to queries on the government invoking bank guarantees of operators. “Nobody wants to kill the sector,” Kumar said in a rushed exchange with reporters on the sidelines of the launch of SBI Foundation and Microsoft’s joint initiative to create job opportunities for youth with disabilities in Mumbai. —FE
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