The Supreme Court has directed for contempt proceedings to be launched against telecom companies for violating the apex court’s order on payment of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) related dues. The Court took a strong objection to the fact that despite the expiring of the due date of January 24, 20202 for making payments, none of the operators have paid any amount till date.
The country’s top court has also slammed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for not taking any action against the telecom companies on failing to repay AGR dues on time. Infact, in doing so, DoT has actually modified and stayed the orders of Supreme Court which amounts to a case of contempt.
Petitions filed by telecom companies were heard by a bench of justices – Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah.
The top court will next hear the case on March 17, 2020. It has summoned MD of all telcos including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and others to explain why these dues were not deposited despite orders and why contempt action must not be taken against them for non-compliance of order.
Earlier, the Supreme Court on January 17 had dismissed the petitions by the telecom firms to review its October verdict which rejected the telcos’ definition of AGR and exposed them to payments of upwards of Rs 1 trillion. In the petitions, the companies had urged that the apex court revisit its judgment and amend it in any shape or form to grant them relief. The verdict required them to pay the dues by January 23, 2020.
However, after the SC dismissed their pleas, the firms had again filed a modification petition, this time, requesting for more time to pay their dues. Simultaneously, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea had written to the DoT urging it to wait for the SC order on fresh pleas. Consequently, the government decided to not take any actions against the companies on non-payment of dues till the case was heard in the apex court.
So far, Jio is the only operator that has paid its dues within the deadline. All other telcos were expecting some relief in payment timelines. Vodafone Idea owes over Rs 500 billion to DoT, while Bharti Airtel has to pay Rs 355.86 billion. Tata Teleservices, which sold its mobile services business to Airtel, has dues of Rs 140 billion.