Tata Sons chief meets Prasad as DoT prepares to issue notice to TTSL over AGR payment
New Delhi, Feb 25 () Amid the ongoing AGR crisis, Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran on Tuesday met Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, even as an official said the telecom ministry is prepared to issue a notice to Tata Teleservices for paying only part of its dues as full and final settlement.
Emerging from the meeting which lasted for over 30 minutes, Chandrasekaran declined to comment on the details of his discussion. He later also met Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash.
The crucial meeting comes at a time when the government is looking to issue a detailed notice to Tatas for paying only Rs 2,197 crore as full and final settlement, whereas the government's calculation put Tata Teleservices' dues at about Rs 14,000 crore.
A senior government official asserted that the telecom department is not convinced with the company's dues assessment. A notice will be sent to the company in a day or two questioning its AGR calculation, the official said.
With the sector reeling under the impact of statutory dues burden, Vodafone Idea Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla also met Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last Tuesday.
In all, 15 telecom entities owe the government Rs 1.47 lakh crore in unpaid statutory dues -- Rs 92,642 crore in unpaid licence fee and another Rs 55,054 crore in outstanding spectrum usage charges. Of the estimated dues that include interest and penalty for late payments, Airtel and Vodafone Idea account for about 60 per cent.
These dues arose after the Supreme Court, in October last year, upheld the government's position on including revenue from non-core businesses in calculating the annual Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) of telecom companies, a share of which is paid as licence and spectrum fee to the exchequer.
The Supreme Court, earlier this month, rejected a plea by mobile carriers such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for extension in the payment schedule and asked companies to deposit their past dues for spectrum and licences.
Since the February 14 tongue-lashing Supreme Court gave telecom companies for missing its previous deadline of January 23 to pay past dues as well as the Department of Telecommunication for failing to enforce it, firms and Telecom Ministry are busy doing separate maths on the actual dues.
Vodafone Idea, which is confronted with Rs 53,000 crore in statutory dues as per DoT's calculation, has so far paid only seven per cent of those dues in two tranches. Airtel has paid Rs 10,000 crore out of its DoT estimated liability of over Rs 35,000 crore.
Tata Teleservices has paid Rs 2,197 crore, the entire outstanding it believes to have arisen after the October ruling of the apex court for calculating dues.
Meanwhile, the government is also asking telecom companies including Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices to submit supporting documents on AGR self-assessment, that formed the basis of their statutory dues calculation. The exercise will help the DoT examine the AGR calculations being made by the telecom players.
Once substantiating documents are filed by the companies, the telecom department will initiate random test checks on the AGR calculation in a time-bound manner. The 'test check' will be done for any one year (of telcos' dues) to examine the deviation between telecom companies' assessment and the government calculation of AGR liabilities.
Amid a deepening crisis in the telecom sector, the government is looking to strike a balance between complying with the Supreme Court order on statutory dues, ensuring the health of the sector and safeguarding consumer interest.
Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal, and VIL's Birla met top government functionaries throughout last week to seek prompt measures that would offer a breather to the troubled sector.Mittal has urged the government for reduction in levies and taxes, as he termed the AGR "an unprecedented crisis for industry". MBI MKJ
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