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‘Desk officer sitting on our orders': SC summons telecom bosses over dues

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 3 days ago HT Correspondent

The Supreme Court on Friday rebuked telecom companies for not paying up the money due to the government following the top court’s October verdict on the interpretation of the Adjusted Gross Revenue. Last year’s ruling required telecom companies to pay the government Rs 92,000 crore.

A view of Supreme Court © Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images A view of Supreme Court

A three-judge bench led by Justice Arun Mishra summoned top officials of the telecom firms including Airtel and Vodafone to explain why contempt proceedings shouldn’t be initiated against them for non-compliance.

The bench was particularly upset with a telecom official who, it said, had effectively stopped implementation of the top court’s verdict.

“A desk officer is sitting in appeal over our orders,” Justice Arun Mishra said, referring to a telecom official who wrote to the Attorney General with the request that the government shouldn’t insist on immediate payment of dues at this stage.

“What is happening in this country? This is complete nonsense. We had already said what we have to”, Justice Mishra remarked on the petition that wanted the court to give the telecom companies time to make the payment.

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 lakh crore in statutory dues by January 23, saying it did not find any “justifiable reason” to entertain them.

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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. According to the New Telecom Policy 1999, telecom licensees are required to share a percentage of their AGR with the government as annual licence fee (LF).

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.

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