Meanwhile, the Centre said telcos had already paid about Rs 16,000 crore in AGR dues and some had assured further payments in a week’s time, adding that they would strike a balance among compliance with the apex court’s AGR order, the telecom sector's health, and customer interests.
Earlier in the day, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had said it would issue fresh notices to Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel
and Tata Teleservices this week for not paying their AGR dues entirely. While Bharti Airtel
had paid Rs 10,000 crore on Monday, Vodafone Idea
paid Rs 2,500 crore on Monday and another Rs 1,000 crore on Thursday. In all, Vodafone Idea
owes Rs 53,000 crore to the telecom department in AGR dues.
Mittal and Vodafone Idea
Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla had met with the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday. Vodafone Idea had earlier gone public saying it might not remain as a going concern unless the government gave it some relief on AGR dues, implying it might either shut shop or go for bankruptcy proceedings.
Following his meeting with the finance minister, Mittal told reporters that the AGR issue was not discussed. He said the telecom sector was under stress for the last three-and-a-half years and that the government should focus on its sustainability. “The only thing the government needs to do is to focus on how to ensure the sustainability of the sector,” Mittal had said.
The finance minister had earlier said that the government will wait for DoT’s stand before commenting on the ongoing issue.
The Supreme Court's original ruling in October led the DoT to seek hefty unpaid dues on license fees and spectrum usage charges from telcos. The DoT demand relates to a 14-year-old dispute regarding the definition of AGR, which the Supreme Court agreed should include all kinds of income generated by the telcos.