The Supreme Court on Tuesday exempted telecommunications firms Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio from paying around Rs 40,000 crore of adjusted gross revenue dues to the government, NDTV reported. Airtel and Jio have been using the spectrum of defunct telecom companies Reliance Communications, Videocon and Aircel.

“Shared operator telecom companies cannot be saddled with liability of past AGR dues,” the court said while passing a verdict on the payment of revenue by telecom firms to the government.

In its judgement, the top court gave Indian telecom firms 10 years to pay AGR dues to the government. However, 10% of the dues have to be paid by March 31, 2021, the court said.

Justice Arun Mishra said that the telecom firms must pay the dues in annual installments commencing from April 1, 2021, till March 31, 2031. The firms must also keep alive the adjusting bank guarantees until the payments are made.

The Supreme Court also dropped contempt cases against the telecom companies and ordered their managing directors to give personal guarantees within four weeks.

The case

In March, the Department of Telecommunications had appealed to the top court seeking 20 years for payment of adjusted gross revenue dues. This came after telecommunications firms expressed their inability to pay according to the Supreme Court judgement last October.

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 faced a combined liability of Rs 82,000 crore following the Supreme Court ruling.