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
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