India

After Supreme Court Rap, Centre Orders Telcos To Clear Dues By 11:59 PM

After Supreme Court Rap, Centre Orders Telcos To Clear Dues By 11:59 PM

Companies like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have been issued notices by the Department of Telecom

New Delhi:

The government has asked telecom companies to pay their dues by 11.59 pm tonight, Press Trust of India reported on Friday, hours after the Supreme Court's dressing down on unpaid dues.

Companies like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have been issued notices by the Department of Telecom, according to the news agency.

The telecom companies have to pay adjusted gross revenue (AGR) worth Rs 92,000 crore to the government.

This morning, the court ripped into telecom companies as well as the government over the dues remaining unpaid despite its orders. "We don't know who is creating this nonsense, is there no law left in the country," the Supreme Court asked, summoning telecom company bosses for contempt.

The managing directors of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, MTNL, BSNL, Reliance Communications, Tata Telecommunication and others were summoned to the court on March 17.

"It is better not to live in this country and rather leave the country," the judges thundered, angry about a letter from a desk officer of the Department of Telecom, who "stayed" the court order and said no action should be taken against the companies if they failed to pay up by the deadline.

"I am anguished. I feel I should not work in this court. Our conscience has been shaken by the way things are happening in the country," a Supreme Court bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah said.

"Not a penny has been deposited... Is it not the outcome of money power? 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.

Telecom companies including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices had approached the Supreme Court in January, seeking modification in the top court's verdict to get more time to pay up. According to the telecom department, Bharti Airtel owes around Rs 23,000 crore, Vodafone Idea Rs 19,823 crore and Reliance Communications Rs 16,456 crore.

The companies wanted the top court to allow them to ask the government to extend the deadline for payment beyond January 23.

Telecom providers in the country pay the Department of Telecommunications 3-5 per cent of their AGR in spectrum usage charges and 8 per cent as licence fees. Companies argue that the Adjusted Gross Revenue should comprise just revenue accrued from core services, while the government says it should include all revenue.

(with inputs from PTI)