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Telecoms to get 10 years to repay installments of AGR dues

The SC on Tuesday gave 10 years to telecom firms to pay back dues amounting to about Rs 1.6 lakh crore of the Annual Gross Revenue they owe to the government.

Telecom companies. Source: The News Minute

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra ruled that the firms will have to pay 10% of their dues by 2021 and rest of the installments can be paid by March 31, 2031. If a company fails to do so, it will be punishable by contempt of court. It also said that the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) should decide whether or not spectrum can be sold under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy code.

Telecom Companies will have to make payments on or before February 7 every year and the non-payment of dues in any year would invite contempt of court proceedings against such companies. The Managing Directors of these companies will be required to deposit a personal guarantee within four weeks from now.

All telecom companies that operate in India pay a part of their revenues as license fee and spectrum charges to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for using the spectrum owned by the government. Major telecom companies, including Vodafone-Idea and Bharti Airtel, owe a substantial amount to the department of telecom (DoT). The total liability on Vodafone-Idea is Rs 58,254 crore and Bharti Airtel was fastened with a total liability of Rs 43,980 crore.

In March this year, DoT moved a petition in the SC to grant the firms a period of 20 years to clear the outstanding AGR dues. DoT said that competition in the telecom sector and quality of services given by mobile companies will be adversely affected and it will lead to loss of direct and indirect employment and will also negatively impact foreign investment sentiment.

The SC has also said that till the last installment is paid by the companies, their bank guarantees furnished to the DoT would be kept alive.

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