Vodafone Idea owes over Rs 50,000 crore to DoT, while Bharti Airtel has to pay Rs 35,586 crore. (Photo Credit: File Photo)
Coming down heavily over the non-payment of the AGR dues, the Supreme Court issued showcause notices of contempt to top telecom bosses on Friday. The top court has also summoned the CMDs and MDs of major telecom players including Vodafone-Idea and Airtel. Setting up the deadline, the top court ordered the telcos to pay Rs 1.47 lakh crore AGR dues by March 17. Giving the ultimatum, the apex court said, Pay up by the next date of hearing (March 17). This is the last opportunity.” The top court was also displeased with the top officer at the Department of Telecom. The apex court also issued contempt notice against the DoT officer. The top court said that “his order must be withdrawn by the evening or he should be ready to go to jail.”
While adjourning matter for March, the top court observed that too much has ‘happened in this country, won't let it happen again.’ A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah was hearing a batch of fresh petitions filed by telecom companies seeking more time for payment of AGR dues. Expressing anguish over the non-action by the telecom players, the top court asked: “We don't know who is creating this nonsense, is there no law left in country.”
Earlier on January 16, a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had dismissed review petitions of telecom firms seeking review of its earlier order asking 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 apex court had on October 24 last year ruled that the statutory dues need to be calculated by including non-telecom revenues in AGR of telcos. It had upheld the AGR definition formulated by the DoT and termed as "frivolous" the nature of objections raised by the telecom service providers.
In an affidavit filed in the top court, DoT said that according to calculations, Airtel owes Rs 21,682.13 crore as licence fee to the government and dues from Vodafone totalled Rs 19,823.71 crore, while Reliance Communications owed a total of Rs 16,456.47 crore. BSNL owed Rs 2,098.72 crore and MTNL Rs 2,537.48 crore.