Airtel pays Rs 10,000 crore to telecom department as part of dues, days after SC raps Centre, firms
The Supreme Court refused to accept Vodafone Idea’s proposal to pay Rs 2,500 crore by Monday and Rs 1,000 crore more by Friday.
Telecom major Bharti Airtel on Monday said it has paid Rs 10,000 crore towards the adjusted gross revenue to the Department of Telecommunications, reported PTI. The company owes the Centre a total of Rs 35,500 crore as spectrum charges and licence fee.
The company has paid Rs 9,500 crore on behalf of Bharti Airtel Limited (including Telenor India) and Rs 500 crore on behalf of Bharti Hexacom. “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,” said the telecom major, according to CNBC-TV18.
On Friday, a Supreme Court bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah issued notices to Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Tata Teleservices and others, ordering them to pay adjusted gross revenue of Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the Department of Telecommunications before the next hearing on March 17. The court said that if the amount was not paid, the managing directors and other senior officers of the companies will have to personally appear in court for the next hearing.
Hours after the court’s order, Airtel had informed the telecom department it will deposit Rs 10,000 crore by February 20, and the remaining amount “well before” March 17. Airtel is expected to survive this crisis. Many analysts expect Airtel to pay off its dues and survive and eventually enjoy a duopoly with Jio in the sector since Vodafone Idea is struggling to make the payments.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court refused to accept Vodafone Idea’s proposal to pay Rs 2,500 crore by Monday and Rs 1,000 crore more by Friday, provided no coercive action is taken, PTI reported. A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra rejected the proposal given by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Vodafone.
On January 15, the top court dismissed petitions filed by telecom firms such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea seeking a review of its earlier order that allowed the government to collect Rs 1.47 lakh crore in past statutory dues by January 23. The court said it did not find any “justifiable reason” to entertain the petitions.
In October, the Supreme Court had asked telecom operators to pay tax on their non-core revenues over and above the spectrum usage charges and licence fees. It upheld the Centre’s broader definition of revenue, based on which the government calculates levies on telecom operators. Airtel and Vodafone Idea are facing a combined liability of Rs 82,000 crore following the Supreme Court ruling.
Fifteen entities owe the government Rs 1.47 lakh crore. Of this, Rs 92,642 crores amounted to unpaid licence fee and Rs 55,054 crore is outstanding spectrum usage charges. Vodafone Idea owes the government most – Rs 53,000 crore – followed by Bharti Airtel and the now defunct Tata Teleservices, which owes the government Rs 14,000 crore.
Vodafone Idea on Saturday said it was assessing the amount that can be paid towards the adjusted gross revenue to the Department of Telecommunications before the next hearing date. The liability of Vodafone Idea Ltd is estimated to be around Rs 53,038 crore, including Rs 24,729 crore of spectrum dues and Rs 28,309 crore in licence fee. However, the company, which had warned of a potential collapse just a few months earlier, flagged concerns over the continuation of its business.