India’s high court rejected attempts by operators to have adjusted gross revenue (AGR) liabilities reassessed and ordered the outstanding sums to be paid in full, but agreed to consider easing payment terms, The Economic Times (ET) reported.

The Supreme Court condemned the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and operators for moving ahead with a reassessment, calling the move sheer fraud and contempt of court, ET wrote.

It told the DoT to withdraw the self-assessment notice, arguing the department had no authority to authorise the move because the amounts were already set by the court.

The court will discuss a government proposal (approved by the Cabinet on 18 March) to allow operators up to 20 years to pay their dues.

It will also mull reducing the rate of interest on the sums to 8 per cent, as part of a move to ensure the sector remains competitive now only three major mobile players remain, the newspaper said.

The next hearing is scheduled to take place in a fortnight.

Last week, the DoT advised parliament it would recalculate the outstanding amounts operators owed based on self-assessments initiated in late February after the Supreme Court clarified the definition of AGR.

Vodafone Idea claimed it owed INR215 billion ($2.9 billion) compared with the INR530 billion the DoT ordered it to pay: the operator this week claimed it paid the full principal amount owed.

Rival Bharti Airtel pegged the overall amount owed at INR130 billion, which it paid along with an “extra” payment of INR50 billion. The DoT estimates its liability at INR356 billion.