In a much needed respite to stressed telecom companies, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a two-year moratorium on payment of pending spectrum auction instalments for the years 2020-21 and 2021-22.

The move to defer payments for 2020-21 and 2021-22 will give Rs 42,000 crore relief to Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio, they said.

The move was approved by the Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Earlier today, telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that there is no proposal before the government at present on waiver of penalties and interest on outstanding licence fee payments based on adjusted gross revenue (AGR).

"No such proposal is under consideration of the government as on date," Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

The Indian telecom operators owe the government nearly Rs 1.47 lakh crore in license fee (LF) and spectrum usage charges (SUC). Of this, license fee amounts to Rs 92,642 crore as of July this year, while SUC stood at Rs 55,054 crore as of October end this year.

Ravi Shankar Prasad informed the House that Vodafone Idea has an outstanding dues of 53,038 crore, of which Rs 28,309 crore in LF and Rs 24,730 crore in SUC. Bharti Airtel dues are nearly Rs 35,586 crore (Rs 21,682 crore as LF and Rs 13,904 crore as SUC). The licence fee dues of Telenor and Tata Group of companies stood at Rs 1,950 crore and Rs 9,987 crore, respectively.