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Bharti Airtel pays Rs 10,000cr to govt towards statutory dues

" amount of Rs 10,000 crore has been paid on behalf of Bharti Airtel, Bharti Hexacom, and Telenor.

February 24, 2020 / 02:10 PM IST

With the government coming down heavily on telcos after the Supreme Court's rap, Bharti Airtel on Monday said it has paid Rs 10,000 crore to the telecom department towards statutory dues.

The company said it will make payment of balance amount after self-assessment exercise.

"The...amount of Rs 10,000 crore has been paid on behalf of Bharti Airtel, Bharti Hexacom, and Telenor," the Sunil Mittal-led company said in a statement.

As much as Rs 9,500 crore has been paid on behalf of Bharti Airtel (including Telenor India which merged with the company), and another Rs 500 crore for Bharti Hexacom.

As per the government's assessment, Airtel owes nearly Rs 35,586 crore in statutory dues, including licence fee and spectrum usage charge.

After facing the ire of the Supreme Court for putting on hold recovery of dues from telecom companies, the telecom department on February 14 began issuing orders asking firms such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to clear past dues immediately.

The DoT swung into action and started issuing circle or zone-wise demand notices to firms, asking telcos cough up their liabilities immediately or face action in line with licence terms without any further notice.

Some circles like UP (West) insisted that payment be made by Friday 11.59 PM, while others like UP (East) zone said its field office will remain open even on Saturday (February 15) to facilitate payment of liabilities by companies - underlining the telecom department's resolve to collect the unpaid dues at the earliest and indicating its unwillingness to yield further on timelines.

On February 14 (Friday), Airtel had said it will pay Rs 10,000 crore to the Department of Telecommunications by February 20 and the remaining before March 17.
But on Monday, the company rushed to make part payments and said, "we are in the process of completing the self assessment exercise expeditiously and will duly make the balance payment upon completion of the same, before the next date of hearing in (the) SC".

The company said it will also submit supporting details at the time of making balance payment.

In all, 15 entities owe the government Rs 1.47 lakh crore -- Rs 92,642 crore in unpaid licence fee and another Rs 55,054 crore in outstanding spectrum usage charges.

These dues arose after the Supreme Court, in October last year, had upheld the government's position on including revenue from non-core businesses in calculating the annual Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) of telecom companies, a share of which is paid as licence and spectrum fee to the exchequer.

The apex court last week directed the managing directors and directors of telcos and other firms to explain why contempt action be not taken against them for non-compliance of its order to pay adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues to the DoT.

Taking strong note of the non-compliance of its order, a bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice M R Shah expressed anguish over the order passed by the DoT's desk officer, staying the effect of its verdict in the AGR matter.

Vodafone Idea Ltd is confronted with the dues worth Rs 53,000 crore - its liabilities add up to Rs 24,729 crore of spectrum dues and another Rs 28,309 crore in licence fee.

Vodafone Idea, in a regulatory filing on Saturday, had said it is assessing the amount that can be paid towards AGR dues, although it reiterated that continuation of business in India will depend on "a positive outcome" of its modification plea filed before the apex court.

"The company proposes to pay the amount so assessed in the next few days," VIL had said.

first published: Feb 17, 2020 10:57 am