Supreme Court allows ten years to pay AGR dues; passes spectrum sale issue to NCLT

7 Sep 2020

India’s Supreme Court has set a ten-year time limit for major telecoms operators to pay back their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR)-related dues to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), with an initial 10% instalment to be paid by 31 March 2021 followed by annual February payments up to 2031. Vodafone Idea (which still owes INR504 billion [USD6.9 billion] of its original INR582.5 billion AGR dues) and Bharti Airtel (with INR260 billion remaining left to pay from its total INR439.8 billion AGR bill) had lobbied for 15-year payment schedules, while the DoT itself had previously suggested a 20-year timeframe. Tata Teleservices – which has already exited India’s cellular sector – is currently liable for INR148 billion in AGR dues after the apex court refused to allow any debt recalculation, the Indian Express reported.

In a related matter, the Supreme Court also ruled that the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) will decide whether or not wireless spectrum held by bankrupt telcos can be sold under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. Insolvent operators Reliance Communications (RCOM) and Aircel have found buyers for their spectrum, but the DoT has refused to approve the sales unless AGR dues are cleared.