News Brief

SC Order Fallout: Vodafone Ordered To Mop Up Rs 53,000 Crore, Airtel Rs 21,000 Crore In AGR Dues By Midnight

Telecom towers. (Pexels/Pixabay)

The Department of Telecom (DoT) has ordered telecom companies to pay up adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues by 11.59 PM today (14 February), Moneycontrol has reported.

As a result of this order, India’s embattled telecom companies like Vodafone and Airtel are required to pay up AGR dues worth Rs 53,000 crore and Rs 21,000 crore respectively. After factoring in the dues owed by other telecom companies, the figure stands at a whopping Rs 1.47 lakh crore.

Airtel has now announced that it will pay Rs 10,000 crore by 20 February and the balance by 17 March.

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This DoT order comes as a result of a Supreme Court hearing in which the Justice Arun Mishra led bench came down heavily on the telecom companies for not paying dues to the government and summoned their top executives to court to explain, why the top court order on clearing dues was not followed.

The Supreme Court also warned the telecom companies that the court may initiate contempt proceedings against them and government officials for not complying with its order.

This angry reaction came as a result of the apex court bench taking objection to Department of Telecommunication (DoT) desk officer's letter directing no coercive action against the telecom companies for not paying dues, leading to non-compliance of the Supreme Court order in Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) matter, irked the top court.

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The letter was written, last month, by an officer in the Licensing Finance Policy Wing, under the DoT, said no coercive action to be taken against telecom companies if they fail to comply with the top court order until further orders. Justice Mishra questioned the Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, as to how can a desk officer say coercive action to be taken until further orders?

Reprimanding the government on the desk officer's conduct, the court said this officer has written a letter to the Attorney General, the top law officer, and other constitutional authorities directing them not insist on payment of money by the telecom companies.

The top court summoned this officer along with the top bosses of the telecom companies for failing to clear AGR dues to the tune of Rs 1.47 lakh crore. Justice Mishra also directed the DoT to withdraw the letter by evening, and the department has complied with this direction.

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The bench had remarked, "Should we wind up this court? A desk officer considers himself a judge and stays this court's orders... how can this officer stay our orders, who is this desk officer?"

Justice Mishra was also heard saying “Chhodenge nahi kisi ko.. Chhodenge nahi kisi ko..(We will not spare anyone)" , at the end of the hearing.

With Inputs From IANS

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