SC ad­mon­ishes govt, tel­cos over AGR dues

~1.47L CR DOT tells firms to pay up be­fore Fri­day mid­night as SC threat­ens con­tempt of court

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Front Page - HT Correspond­ent and Agen­cies let­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: Is there no law left in the coun­try, an “an­guished” Supreme Court asked on Fri­day while di­rect­ing tele­com firms to ex­plain why con­tempt ac­tion should not be taken against them f or non- com­pli­ance of t he Supreme Court’s Oc­to­ber order to pay ad­justed gross rev­enue of ~1.47 lakh crore to the gov­ern­ment.

Last year’s rul­ing came at the end of a 14-year-long le­gal bat­tle that re­quired tele­com com­pa­nies to pay the gov­ern­ment and set Jan­uary 23 as the dead­line to clear the out­stand­ing AGR dues. It had held that com­pa­nies could not ex­clude their non-tele­com rev­enue to cal­cu­late the fee to be paid to the ex­che­quer.

Af­ter the Supreme Court’s re­buke, the tele­com de­part­ment on Fri­day even­ing or­dered the com­pa­nies to clear their dues by mid­night, say­ing in an order: “With ref­er­ence to sub­ject cited above, you are hereby di­rected to make the pay­ment of out­stand­ing dues of LF and SUC [li­cense fee and spec­trum us­age charges] by 14.02.2020, 11.59pm pos­i­tively.”

One of the tele­com oper­a­tors, who did not wish to be named, con­firmed the re­ceipt of the order.

While in all, 15 en­ti­ties owe the gov­ern­ment ~1.47 lakh crore — ~92,642 crore in un­paid li­cence

fee and an­other ~55,054 crore in out­stand­ing spec­trum us­age charges, it is not im­me­di­ately clear just how much of that has been sought by the gov­ern­ment by mid­night tonight.

Tele­com com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Airt e l a nd Voda­fone I dea ap­proached the top court on Fri­day to ask the bench to mod­ify this di­rec­tion.

Voda­fone Idea is star­ing at dues worth ~53,000 crore that in­cludes up to ~24,729 crore of spec­trum dues and an­other ~28,309 crore in li­cence fee. The com­pany had ear­lier warned of shut­down if no re­lief was given.

Bharti Air­tel’s li­a­bil­i­ties added up to nearly ~35,586 crore, "We have to draw con­tempt against this man (desk of­fi­cer) and also against these com­pa­nies. How are they be­hav­ing? We had dis­missed the review plea and not even a sin­gle penny has been de­posited yet. The desk of­fi­cer is stay­ing our order. We are con­cerned with the health of

ju­di­ciary, of this coun­try and of this

sys­tem."

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