With the telecom companies struggling to clear the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues, the Centre is mulling various options to address the issue including promulgating an ordinance to nullify the Supreme Court order and give more time to companies to clear their pending bills.
The other option before the government is to set up a separate fund, which can give soft loan to telecom firms to clear dues as per the Supreme Court order, an official from the DoT told DH.
The news comes in the backdrop of the Supreme Court asking telecom firms to clear dues before next scheduled hearing on March 17. The SC has summoned the managing directors and directors of the companies to present in the court if they fail to honour the order.
Top officials of the Department of Telecom and Ministry of Finance have been holding discussions for the past two days to bail out the telecom sector and prevent firms from collapsing.
Separately, Vodafone Idea Ltd chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and Bharti Airtel promoter Sunil Mittal met Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday. Birla also met top officials of the Finance Ministry.
Later, speaking to media, Mittal said the entire telecom sector is in stress and the government has to address the issue.
"The only thing government needs to do is to focus on how to ensure the sustainability of the sector," he said without elaborating.
The DoT, which earlier decided not to encash bank guarantee of Vodafone for clearing its dues, is still working on final AGR dues that service providers have to pay as it has detected variation in accounting practices adopted by different circle offices.
The Supreme Court had on February 14 come down heavily on the telecom department for not taking steps to recover statutory dues, estimated to be around Rs 1.47 lakh crores, from operators including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Tata Teleservices, among others. The Vodafone is the worst-hit, as the company has to pay an estimated Rs 53,000 crores.