Telcom companies comprising Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea will have to pay 10 per cent of their pending AGR (adjusted gross revenue) dues to the government by March 31, 2021.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has clarified that the telcos will mandatorily have to shell out the said percentage of their total liability (AGR dues) they owe to it regardless of the part-payments made by them earlier.
Although the telecom operators maintain that they have already paid off more than 10 per cent of their AGR dues, the DoT is of the view that they are required to pay it (10% amount) by March 31, 2021.
The ambiguity over this has befuddled the industry calculation with many of the telcos reaching out to their legal counsels to make sense of the Supreme Court's order in this regard.
The dubiety around the payment arose following the top court's September 1 order wherein it had asked the telecom operators to settle 10 per cent of the upfront payment of their dues before March 31, 2021, to the DoT, with the rest of the amount to be paid over 10 years beginning April 1, 2021.
Operational telecom operators are expected to pay Rs 12,921 crore by March 31, of which close to 80 per cent has to be paid by Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel.
Quoting a DoT official, the PTI had reported earlier that the SC's order is very clear that the telcos will have to make a 10 per cent payment of the total dues as demanded by DoT by March 31, 2021.
The official added that the DoT has already raised the demand for full AGR dues, of which 10 per cent to be paid by the said date will be calculated on total AGR liability. He further stated that the telcos can clear the balance dues in 10 yearly instalments from the next financial year onward.
According to the officer, Vodafone Idea will have to pay around Rs 5,825 crore and Bharti Airtel Rs 4,398 crore against the total demand of Rs 58,254 crore and Rs 43,980 crore, respectively, raised by the DoT following the apex court order.
The payment has to be made irrespective of part-payments of Rs 7,854 crore and Rs 18,004 crore already made by Vodafone Idea and Airtel, respectively, the officer said.
"The Supreme Court was aware of the payment the companies had already made. Still, they clearly mentioned about 10 per cent of 'total dues as demanded by DoT'," the officer said.
Similarly, BSNL and MTNL, who have not made any payment, will have to pay Rs 583.5 crore and MTNL around Rs 435 crore by the end of this fiscal year, according to the DoT's interpretation of the apex court order.
When asked if the DoT would raise a demand notice for the payment, the officer said there was no need for any notice as the apex court order is already in place and companies are aware of the payment that they have to make.
Only Reliance Jio will not have to make any payment as it has cleared the entire AGR dues of Rs 195.18 crore, another officer clarified.
The DoT has raised total demand of around Rs 1.47 lakh crore from telecom companies. Some companies like Reliance Communications (total dues Rs 21,139 crore), Aircel (Rs 10,229.77 crore), S Tel (Rs 55.67 crore), Etisalat DB (Rs 31.81 crore) are either going through liquidation or have shut down their operations.