The state-run telecommunications company Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has reportedly asked the government of India to take the burden of settling the dues on account of AGR. The company owes approximately Rs 5,000 crores out of the Rs 1.47 lakh crore demand from the Department of Telecommunications approved by the Supreme Court.
BSNL is currently undergoing a revival scheme where the government is pumping in money to carry out a massive staff reduction exercise and put the telco on the path to profitability. BSNL has been reporting losses from its operations for several months now. There’s a bailout package worth Rs 70,000 crore that the company will get from the government to clear its old outstanding debts. There is also the proposal to launch 4G service by BSNL and that’s expected to improve its overall performance.
The AGR-based demand for licence fee etc. has to be settled by BSNL and all other telecom companies by January 24, 2020. As per a Financial Express report, BSNL has gone a step further and stated that strictly speaking, there should be no liability on this count as far it is concerned since it was not a party to the dispute on which the apex court had delivered its order on October 24, this year.
The exact figure being asked to be paid by BSNL is Rs 4,989.46 crore, comprising Rs 2,099 crore as dues towards licence fee and the remaining towards spectrum usage charges.
While most of the private players, like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have already approached the Supreme Court with their review petition on different grounds, BSNL says it is not filing any petition. The main appeal being made by these firms is that they may be willing to settle the actual dues to the DoT on these two counts based on the adjusted gross revenue method of calculating the dues, they would want the SC to order waiver of the interest, penalty and interest on penalty which forms a huge component of the demands sent out by DoT.
This may be followed by a separate petition being filed by the non-telecom players who have also been asked to pay a sum of around Rs 2 crore overall. These include companies like GAIL, PowerGrid etc. who obtained telecom licences and had limited operations but are forced to pay large sums thanks to the AGR formula being approved by the Supreme Court.
It is not yet known if the government will agree to the request from BSNL to bear another Rs 5,000 crore in addition to the Rs 70,000 crore it has already committed to the ailing telecom firm.