No Telco pays dues by midnight

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 2/16/2020 3:05:14 PM

NEW DELHI, Feb 15: The mobile phone services may be disrupted because of the government on Friday serving notice to all telecom companies to pay their dues by midnight. A source in the Department of Telecomunications (DoT) said no company paid up the dues piled up over 20 years by midnight as ordered by the Supreme Court, threatening contempt against DoT and the companies if they do not clear the dues.
State Bank of India (SBI) chairman Rajnish Kumar feared on Saturday that the banks will suffer and they will have to pay the price in case any telecom company files for bankruptcy as they do not have funds to repay Rs 1.47 lakh crore in the past dues as ordered by the Apex Court.
He said compliance of the Supreme Court lies with DoT. He warned that not only the banks, but consumers, employees and vendors, rather everybody gets impacted. He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the artworks unveiled at the bank's Local Head Office (LHO) here.
In reply to a question on the telco accounts already classified as non-performing assets (NPA), he said Aircel and RCom have already gone into bankruptcy.
RBI governor Shaktikanta Das on Saturday said the bank is having internal discussions on the Supreme Court's order to the telecom companies to pay off the adjusted gross revenue (AGR).
The payments to be made by the companies include Rs 53,000 crore by Vodafone Idea, Rs 35,500 crore by Bharti Airtel and Rs 14,000 crore by the now-defunct Tata Teleservices that has been taken over by Airtel.
Meanwhile, Vodafone Idea Ltd became the first firm on Saturday to say it proposed to make payment in the next few days but did not disclose how much. "The company is currently assessing the amount it will be able to pay to DoT towards the due," Vodafone said in a statement.
The company said its ability to continue providing the mobile services in India depends essentially on the Supreme Court permitting timelines for the payments as it cannot pay in one go.
Vodafone is counting on a hint given by the Supreme Court to make part payment if it cannot pay the whole amount of dues that piled up in the past two decades. The court order says the companies should pay at least a "sizeable" part of its AGR dues to prove their "bona fides" to earn more time to pay the balance.
Meanwhile, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is also the Union Law Minister, was busy on Saturday, a holiday otherwise at the Centre, holding discussions with the DoT officials to examine if an application can be moved in the Apex Court on Monday or Tuesday with the plea not to disrupt the telecom industry, one of the most successful industry in the country.
His worry, however, is that none of the companies came forward to cough up even a token money despite the notices sent out on Friday itself in compilation of the Apex Court's order. The Supreme Court has already rejected the companies' plea in January on a deferred payment schedule.



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