Kerala Kaumudi Online
Sunday, 25 October 2020 7.10 PM IST

Should we shut down the Court? Don't we have any value?: SC slams Centre, DoT


NEW DELHI: In a major setback for the telecom companies, the Supreme Court on Friday rejected the plea seeking new schedule of AGR payments. Coming down heavily on the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for not taking coercive action against telcos for failing to repay, the apex court ordered contempt proceedings against Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

The next hearing has been scheduled for March 17.

The Apex Court also pulled up the DoT desk officer who wrote to the Attorney General asking him to not insist on payemnt of dues. The SC issued a contempt notice to the officer to explain why no action should be initiated against him.

The court summoned managing director, director of all telcos including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and others on March 17 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.

A bench of justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah heard a batch of petitions filed by telecom companies in open court.

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 trillion in statutory dues by January 23, saying it did not find any "justifiable reason" to entertain them.

What should shutdown the Court? Don't we have any value?: SC criticised the Centre and DoT

"We don't know who is creating this nonsense, is there no law left in the country," the Supreme Court said, summoning telecom company bosses for contempt. "It is better not to live in this country and rather leave the country," the judges thundered, angry that its order was not complied with. The managing directors of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, MTNL, BSNL, Reliance Communications, Tata Telecommunication and others have been summoned to the court on March 17.

"I am anguished. I feel I should not work in this court," a Supreme Court bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah said on the petition filed by Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices. "Our conscience has been shaken by the way things are happening in the country," they remarked.

"We will initiate contempt against the officer and the companies. Not a penny has been deposited... Is it not the outcome of money power?" the Supreme Court said today, referring to a "desk officer" in the government who had put on hold the top court's order.

"I am totally at loss how to work in this system and in this country... A desk officer considers himself judge and stays our order. Who is the desk officer? Where is the desk officer. Call him now here. Is there any law left in the country?" the judges fumed. "No company has deposited anything for many years. They should have deposited some money," they said.

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.

"The definition of gross revenue is crystal clear in the agreement. How the adjusted gross revenue to be arrived at is also evident. It cannot be submitted that the revenue has not been defined in the contract. Once the gross revenue is defined, one cannot depart from it and the very meaning is to be given to the revenue for the agreement," the apex court had said in its October verdict.

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