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AGR is unprecedented crisis for telecom sector, says Airtel’s Sunil Mittal

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Sunil Mittal further said the industry is heavily taxed and suggested cut in taxes and levies. (File Photo)

Seeking reduction in taxes and other levies for the telecom sector, Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal Thursday termed the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) case as "unprecedented crisis" facing the industry.

Mittal, who met Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today, said his company is committed to complying with the Supreme court order over non-payment of adjusted gross revenue (AGR), and added that it will make the remaining payment soon.

He further said the industry is heavily taxed and suggested cut in taxes and levies.

On Wednesday evening, Sunil Mittal, along with Vodafone Idea Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, also met Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman  for nearly 40 minutes.

The telecom industry leaders, however, refused to divulge any details of the meeting.

"There is nothing specific. In general terms, the telecom industry has been under stress for three-and-a-half years. This industry is very vital to the nation’s digital agenda and many other industries that ride on it, employment, government taxes. The only thing that the government needs to focus now is how to ensure the sustainability of the sector," Mittal said talking to reporters after the meeting.

He had also met Department of Telecommunications (DoT) Secretary Anshu Prakash earlier on Wednesday.

On February 14, the Supreme Court, during the hearing of a modification plea moved by telecom and non-telecom companies, said if the firms did not make payments of the pending AGR dues before March 17, the managing directors and other directors of the firms would have to make personal appearance before the court.

The apex court then issued show-cause notice to the companies as to why contempt of court should not be initiated against them for failing to comply with orders.

On October 24, 2019, the SC upheld the DoT’s definition of AGR and said since the licencees had agreed to the migration packages, they were liable to pay dues, the penalty on dues, and the interest on penalty due to delay in payments.

The apex court then gave the telcos three months to clear their AGR dues. That three-month deadline had ended on January 23.