The Supreme Court on Friday came down heavily on the telecom companies for not paying dues to the tune of Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the government and summoned their top executives to court to explain, why the top court order on clearing dues was not followed.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra warned the telecom companies that the apex court may initiate contempt proceedings against them and government officials for not paying the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) and not complying with court’s earlier order.
The Supreme Court had ordered the telecom companies to pay adjusted gross revenue (AGR) worth Rs 92,000 crore to the government.
Telecom providers in the country pay the DoT 3-5 per cent of their AGR in spectrum usage charges and 8 per cent as licence fees.
On January 16, Justice Mishra-led bench had already rejected the telecom service providers’ plea seeking a review of its earlier order that allowed the government to collect dues worth Rs 92,000 crore from them. It further asked them to pay Rs 1.47 lakh crore in statutory dues by January 23, saying it did not find any “justifiable reason” to entertain them.
The companies wanted the Supreme Court to allow them to approach the Department of Telecom (DoT) so that payments can be made beyond January 23, which was the deadline to clear the AGR dues.
Telecom companies including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices had approached the Supreme Court in January, seeking modification in the top court’s verdict in the AGR matter.
Lashing out at the telecom firms for not complying with its order, the court said: “No company has deposited anything for many years. They should have deposited some money.”
“I am totally at a loss how to work in this system and in this country… A desk officer considers himself judge and stays our order. Who is the desk officer? Where is the desk officer? Call him now, here. Is there any law left in the country?” the judges questioned.
Justice Mishra said that the telecom companies haven’t even paid a single penny and the government officer wants stay on the order.
“We will initiate contempt against the officer and the companies. Not a penny has been deposited… Is it not the outcome of money power?” the court thundered.
The top court also warned that this officer was liable to jail term if that order was not withdrawn within an hour.
Meanwhile, the top court has ordered the managing directors of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, MTNL, BSNL, Reliance Communications, Tata Telecommunication and others to be present in the court on March 17.
The top court also directed the Centre to immediately withdraw order passed by its desk officer to not take coercive action against the telecom companies.
The top court had on October 24 last year ruled that the statutory dues needed to be calculated by including non-telecom revenues in AGR of telcos.