A joint modification application was filed by the Vodafone Idea Ltd., Bharti Airtel Ltd., and the Tata Teleservices Ltd., seeking some more time to pay the adjusted gross revenue (AGR), in the Supreme Court.
As per the petition, the operators seek to allow them to negotiate conditions and schedules for payment of statutory dues with the Department of Telecommunications.
Accordingly, this is the final attempt by the debt-laden operators to negotiate for an easier payment schedule with the DoT and further, to extend their deadline for the payment of AGR dues.
Earlier, in 2019 the Supreme Court had dismissed the review petitions filed by the telecoms to alter the judgment which directed the telecom operators to pay ₹1 trillion in AGR dues, providing a deadline of three-months which was likely to end on 23 January. This left the three companies to face more than Rs 1.02 lakh crore in additional license fees, spectrum usage charges (SUC), penalties and interest. Subsequently, the Vodafone Idea mentioned to the court that if no relief is forthcoming, it will have to shut.
“The company does not have any other resources available for the purpose of this payment. If a suitable and the appropriate arrangement is not made available, it will lead to the immediate closure of one of the oldest and largest telecom companies in India,” the Vodafone Idea stated in its plea.
“Vodafone Idea was under huge financial stress and in no position to make either upfront payments of the amounts due or provide any financial bank guarantees to securitize the amounts due. Any coercive order for immediate payments etc. could be against the interest of thousands of employees, multiple banks and institutions and all connected stakeholders,” the Vodafone Idea further added in the petition to SC.
As per sources, Bharti Airtel has to pay 35,586 crores while Vodafone Idea owes a debt of 50,000 crores and further, the Tata Teleservices, which had sold its mobile services business to Airtel has dues of ₹14,000 crores, to be paid to the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR). According to the reports, Bharti Airtel has since then raised around $3 billion and further plans to use a portion of the proceeds to meet its AGR liabilities. However, it is unclear how Vodafone Idea will raise resources to pay its dues.
Reportedly, the said telecom operators in their plea to the SC have challenged the methods adopted by the department of telecommunications to calculated the AGR amount.
The counsel representing the telecom companies include Mahesh Agrawal of Agrawal and Associates for Vodafone Idea, while Harsh Kaushik and Manali Singhal for Airtel and Tata Teleservices.