New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the managing directors of India’s telecom companies to explain why contempt action should be not taken against them for non-compliance of its order to pay adjusted gross revenue (AGR) of Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
Taking strong note of the non-compliance of its order, a bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice M.R. Shah also expressed anguish over the order passed by DoT’s desk officer staying the effect of its verdict in AGR matter.
“We don’t know who is creating this nonsense. Is there no law left in the country… It is better not to live in this country and rather leave the country,” the bench observed.
The top court in particular slammed a DoT desk officer who wrote a letter to the Attorney General and other constitutional authorities saying they should not insist on payment of money by telcos and others and to ensure that no coercive action is taken against them.
“This cannot happen in this country.We cannot function in this fashion. Let’s wind up the Supreme Court.. It is better to leave this country. They can stay the order? There is so much money power…,” the bench added.
Krishnadas Rajagopal, the legal correspondent from The Hindu tweeted about the hearing.
J. Mishra asks govt to explain whyaction was not taken against DoT officer who "stayed" implementation AGR verdict
SG asks SC not to insinuate the officer was "hand-in-glove" with telcos
J. Mishra: If he does not withdraw the order in an hr, he will go to jail today itself
— Krishnadas Rajagopal (@kdrajagopal) February 14, 2020
The legal battle over the AGR controversy, a nearly 15-year-old dispute, came to an end in October 2019, when the apex court ordered that the telecom companies pay over Rs 1.4 lakh crore including the original demand, interest and penalty charges.
The judgement sent ripples throughout India’s telecom industry as the brunt of the dues would have to come from Airtel and Vodafone-Idea, two companies that have struggled with slowing revenues and debt since the entry of Reliance Jio.
In December 2019, Vodafone-Idea chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla said that the telecom venture would shut down if the Modi government did not provide relief in light of the SC’s verdict.
“We will have to shut shop,” Birla said on a query about the course of action for the company going ahead in the absence of government relief.
In January 2020, the apex court rejected all review petitions in the matter.
The Supreme Court’s refusal on Friday to grant any more time, even going at one point to remark that a sizeable amount of the dues should be paid immediately, leaves very few options left for Vodafone-Idea.
(With inputs from PTI)