Saturday, 29 February 2020

Pay up by midnight: Indian Supreme Court forces DoT to call in AGR dues immediately

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Friday 14 February 20

The Supreme Court slammed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) earlier today after they decided not to force the telcos to pay up at the previous January deadline

The Supreme Court has forced the DoT to withdraw its order of prohibiting coercive action against Indian telcos for their unpaid AGR dues.   Telcos will now have until midnight tonight to pay up or face the consequences – a deadline that could mean the end of Vodafone Idea…

The Supreme Court has forced the DoT to withdraw its order of prohibiting coercive action against Indian telcos for their unpaid AGR dues.
 
Telcos will now have until midnight tonight to pay up or face the consequences – a deadline that could mean the end of Vodafone Idea.
 
The AGR fees, which total around $13 billion, were levied last year, and since then Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have been struggling to appeal the decision. In the middle of January, the Supreme Court said there was “no justifiable reason” to review the terms of the payment and reaffirmed that the debts were due in full on the 23rd of January.
 
Bharti Airtel scrambled to raise the ~$3 billion it needed to pay its fee, but Vodafone Idea has struggled with its much larger payment, suggesting that it will fold if push comes to shove.
 
The deadline of the 23rd came and went, with the DoT making the decision not to pursue coercive measures to make the telcos pay up. This decision has, in effect, won the teclos another month to garner the required funds and fight for legal relief.
 
But today the time is up for the telcos, with the Supreme Court forcing the DoT to call in the debts by midnight tonight.
 
"A review has been dismissed. There's no stay,” said justice Arun Mishra, who led the three-member bench on the Supreme Court. 
 
He was critical of the DoT’s initial decision not to hound the operators for the money they owe, issuing sanctions against the DoT officer who made the decision. 
 
“An officer overrides a court order. What is happening? Officers are ruling this country?" said a baffled Mishra.
 
Vodafone Idea shares are already plummeting at this news, dropping 25% since its announcement. 
 
 
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