In an ultimatum, the Department of Telecommunications has ordered firms including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to clear dues by 11.59 PM tonight. The directive comes after the DoT faced the ire of the Supreme Court for putting on hold recovery of dues from telecom companies, started issuing circle or zone-wise demand notices to firms.
DoT faces SC ire
An "anguished" Supreme Court on Friday asked if there was no law left in the country, as it directed the top echelons of telecom firms to explain why contempt action should not be taken against them for non-compliance of its order to pay adjusted gross revenue of Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the Telecom department. Taking strong note over the non-compliance of its order, the apex court expressed its displeasure over an order passed by the Department of Telecom's desk officer staying the effect of its verdict in the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) matter.
The bench directed the managing directors and directors of the all the telcos and companies concerned to appear before it on next date of hearing on March 17 and explain why they have not deposited the money and why coercive action should not be taken against them.
The apex court also asked the desk officer of DoT to explain why appropriate action should not be taken against him for his act. It said the officers in the country must know where to stop.
The telecom companies want to negotiate a fresh payment schedule with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), which has issued demand notices to them.
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 "frivolous" the nature of objections raised by the telecom service providers.
Telecom Department withdraws order on no coercive action
Following the SC rap, the telecom department withdrew its order that asked for no coercive action against defaulting telcos after the Supreme Court took a strong view of non-compliance of its order on payment of statutory dues by telecom companies.