New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted telecom operators 10 years to pay their pending adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, amounting to about Rs 1.6 lakh crore to the government. The apex court has also directed the telecom companies to pay up to 10% of their AGR dues by March 31, 2021. Also Read - COVID-19 Impact: Loan Moratorium Extendable up to Two Years, Centre Tells Supreme Court

Justice Arun Mishra said that the telecom firms must pay the dues in annual installments commencing from April 1, 2021, till March 31, 2031. Default on payment instalments will invite interest, penalty and contempt of court, a three-judge apex court benched by Justice Mishra said.

“In case of any default in making payment of annual installments, interest would become payable as per agreement along with the penalty and interest on penalty and would be punishable by contempt of court,” the court held.

The bench also asked the Managing Director (MDs) or Chief Executive Officer (CEOs) of telecos concerned to furnish undertaking or personal guarantee within four weeks for payment of dues.

The court also said the issue of sale of spectrum by telcos facing insolvency proceedings shall be decided by National Company Law Tribunal.

Telecom operators and the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta had sought more time to repay the dues citing financial stress and the impact on the economy. Telecom companies were demanding a timeline of 15 years while the government had suggested to give them 20 years.

Soon after the verdict, Vodafone Idea slumped 9.91 per cent to Rs 9.18 while Bharti Airtel surged 4.68 per cent to Rs 538, as per Economic Times.