The DoT, which faced the ire of the Supreme Court for putting on hold recovery of dues from telecom companies, started issuing circle or zone-wise demand notices to firms, said an order as quoted by news agency PTI.
The order issued by the UP (West) Telecom Circle asked “all telecom service providers” to clear dues by 11.59 pm Friday.
“With reference to subject cited above, you are hereby directed to make the payment of outstanding dues of licence fee and spectrum usage charges by 14.02.2020, 11:59 PM positively,” it said.
The order comes just hours after the apex court issued notice to the companies and their directors directing them to explain why contempt proceedings shouldn’t be initiated against them for not complying with its order to pay AGR of Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the DoT.
The court had asked the operators to deposit the amount by March 17.
While 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, it is not immediately clear just how much of that has been sought by the government by midnight tonight.
Meanwhile, Bharti Airtel has offered to pay Rs 10,000 crore by February 20, and the rest before next date of hearing in Supreme Court.
“Nevertheless, in compliance with the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and their direction today, we shall deposit a sum of Rs 10,000 crore (on account) by 20th February, 2020, on behalf of the Bharti Group companies,” Airtel said in a letter to member (finance) at the DoT.
Telecom operators including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices had approached the SC in January, seeking modification in the top court’s verdict in the AGR matter.
Soon after the apex court made its observations, the telecom department withdrew its order dated January 23, 2020 that asked for no coercive action against telecom companies defaulting on statutory dues payment.
Voda Idea owes over Rs 50,000 crore to DoT that includes up to Rs 24,729 crore of spectrum dues and another Rs 28,309 crore in licence fee. The company had earlier warned of shutdown if no relief was given. While, Bharti Airtel has to pay over Rs 35,500 crore, Tata Teleservices — which sold its mobile services business to Airtel — has dues of nearly Rs 14,000 crore.
Last week, Vodafone chief executive officer (CEO) Nick Read had said the situation in India is critical, following the AGR ruling of the Supreme Court. The British telecom major holds 45.39 per cent stake in VIL.
Shares of Vodafone Idea plunged 23.21 per cent to close at Rs 3.44 on the BSE on Friday. During the trade, it dropped 27.45 per cent to Rs 3.25.
Reliance Jio is the only company which has paid its dues of Rs 60 crore. The amount was significantly lower than others as the company started its operations in 2016.
(With agency inputs)
In Video:DoT orders telecom companies to clear AGR dues by midnight