SC asks telecom firms to explain why contempt action should not be taken against them in AGR order

The Supreme Court on Friday took strong exception to telecommunications’ firms non-compliance of its order to pay adjusted gross revenue of Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the Department of Telecommunications, PTI reported. The court ordered the managing directors and other directors of these companies to explain why contempt action should not be taken against them.

“We don’t know who is creating this nonsense,” the bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah said. “Is there no law left in the country…it is better not to live in this country and rather leave the country.”

The bench expressed anguish over a Department of Telecommunications officer imposing a stay on the Supreme Court’s directive to telecom firms. The top court said a desk officer has been writing a letter to Attorney General KK Venugopal and other constitutional authorities, saying they should not insist on payment of money by telecom companies and others and to ensure that no coercive action is taken against them.

Justice Mishra said that if a desk officer has the audacity to stay an order of the Supreme Court, then perhaps the top court should “wind up”. “We have dismissed a review plea in adjusted gross revenue case but still not a single penny has been deposited,” he said. “Our conscience has been shaken by the way things are happening in the country.”

On January 15, the top court dismissed petitions filed by telecom firms such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea seeking a review of its earlier order that allowed the government to collect Rs 1.47 lakh crore in past statutory dues by January 23. The court said it did not find any “justifiable reason” to entertain the petitions.

In October, the Supreme Court had asked telecom operators to pay tax on their non-core revenues over and above the spectrum usage charges and licence fees. It upheld the Centre’s broader definition of revenue, based on which the government calculates levies on telecom operators. Airtel and Vodafone Idea are facing a combined liability of Rs 82,000 crore following the Supreme Court ruling.

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