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The companies countered that adjusted gross revenue (AGR) should be limited to core telecom services alone.
The Supreme Court last month ruled in favour of the telecom department in a matter related to adjusted gross revenue (AGR), allowing it to collect overdue levies and interest of Rs 1.47 lakh crore from telecom operators.
That put at risk the operations of leading operators such as Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, which have warned that their operations may be under threat unless the government stops hitting operators with higher taxes and charges.
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea reported record losses for the quarter ended September 30, on account of provisions towards dues owed to the telecom department. Vodafone Idea reported a net loss of Rs. 50,921.9 crore - the biggest quarterly loss in India's corporate history - whereas Bharti Airtel's net loss stood at Rs 23,045 crore.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) had claimed dues of around Rs 92,000 crore as license fee and Rs 41,000 crore as spectrum usage fee from Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Communications (RCom).
According to the telecom department, Bharti Airtel owes around Rs 23,000 crore, Vodafone Idea Rs 19,823.71 crore and Reliance Communications owes Rs 16,456.47 crore. Reliance Communications, which shut down voice operations in December 2017, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.
The payment dispute centres around the definition of adjusted gross revenue. Telecom providers in the country pay the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) 3-5 per cent of their AGR in spectrum usage charges and 8 per cent as licence fees.
Companies have long argued that AGR should comprise just revenue accrued from core services, while the government says it should include all revenue. In last month's ruling, the top court upheld the telecom department's definition of AGR.
Vodafone had said unless the government offered relief, or a legal remedy was found, it would not be able to continue its business in India. According to the British media, Vodafone CEO Nick Read said the company won't provide more capital for its India business unless the authorities make provisions enabling it to compete with domestic players like Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio.
Meanwhile, the government on Wednesday cleared a proposal to give telecom operators the option to defer payment of spectrum-related installments for next two financial years.