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The Supreme Court today agreed to hear a modification plea filed by telecom companies seeking modification of the court’s earlier order in the AGR case.

The modification application jointly filed on January 20 by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India sought more time to pay about Rs 1.4 trillion in Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues to the government.

The SC had last week dismissed the petitions of telecom operators seeking review of its earlier judgment, which had asked the companies to pay the dues before January 23.

In the modification plea, the telecos had requested an extension of the deadline to pay the dues and negotiate payment schedule with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

The bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde today said that the court will hear the petition next week. This would also mean that the companies will get time till the court issues further orders in this regard.

Cash-strapped telecom sector

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea owe about Rs 35,586 crore and Rs 50,000 crore to the government respectively. The SC’s last week’s decision to not review its earlier order was a huge setback for the telecom operators, which are reeling under serious financial crunch.

Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla had said last month that “it will be end of story for Vodafone Idea”, if they don’t get any relief from the government.

Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) are required to pay a percentage of AGR with the government as licensee fee. Ending a two decade long dispute, in September 2019, the apex court had held that revenue from non-core telecom operations also comes under AGR, and hence a percentage of revenue from such operations has to be shared with the government.

Airtel had said last week that it might file a curative petition against the judgment in the SC.

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