The Department of Telecom’s plea seeking 20 years time for operators to pay adjusted gross revenue dues was approved by the Cabinet, Union minister Sanjay Dhotre informed Parliament on Thursday. The Supreme Court will hear the government’s rescue plan of giving telcos a 20-year repayment period for AGR dues during the next hearing scheduled after two weeks.

“Consequent to the approval by the Cabinet, an application has been moved before the Hon’ble Supreme Court on March 16, 2020, seeking, inter-alia, permission of the Hon’ble Court for the licensees impacted by the AGR judgement to pay the unpaid or remaining to be paid amount of past DoT assessed/calculated dues in annual instalments over 20 years duly protecting the net present value of the said dues using a discount rate of 8 per cent,” the Minister of State for Communications told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday had lashed out at Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and other mobile phone operators for self-assessing their outstanding telecom dues, saying they need to pay past dues with interest and penalty — an estimated amount of Rs 1.69 lakh crore. The apex court also came down heavily on the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for allowing companies to re-assess what they owed to the government, and said its order — passed on October 24, 2019 — on revenues for calculating dues was final.

A bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice S A Nazeer and Justice M R Shah refused to take up the Centre’s plea for allowing telecom companies to pay AGR dues in 20 years, saying the application will be taken up after two weeks. “The time frame of 20 years is unreasonable. The telecom companies have to clear all dues mentioned in the judgement,” the bench said, adding it had settled all AGR dues after hearing telecom companies and the government then had fought tooth and nail for interests and penalties.

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