Is there no law left? SC blasts DoT, telcos over Rs 1.47 lakh crore unpaid dues

Issues contempt notices | Operators told to pay by Feb 14-15 midnight

Is there no law left? SC blasts DoT, telcos over Rs 1.47 lakh crore unpaid dues

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 14

The Supreme Court today asked telecom companies, including Airtel and Vodafone Idea, to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for failing to pay Rs 1.47 lakh crore statutory dues ordered by it to be paid to the Department of Telecom (DoT) by January 23.

Who owes how much

  • Rs 53,000 cr Vodafone Idea

  • Rs 35,586 cr Bharti Airtel

  • Most of the remaining liability is with state-owned BSNL/MTNL and some of the shut/bankrupt telecom companies

“Is there no law left in the country?… I am literally shocked... This is pure contempt, 100% contempt,” said a Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra as it asked the telcos and DoT officials to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them.

“This case projects a very disturbing scenario. The companies have violated the order passed by this court in pith and substance. In spite of dismissal of the review applications, they have not deposited the amount so far,” the Bench said.

It directed the DoT officer concerned to withdraw today itself the order that effectively stayed the court’s verdict that required them to pay up.

Posting the matter for further hearing on March 17, the Bench asked the telecom companies to clear their dues, failing which their CMDs/MDs have to be personally present before it.

“Pay up by the next date of hearing. This is the last opportunity all companies have. We must do this... Corruption of all kinds must stop,” it said. “A desk officer staying SC order!,” Justice Mishra wondered about the notification staying payment of AGR dues by the DoT.

“I have never bothered about myself. You don’t know me even an inch. Better not to live in this country. Better to leave this country. There is no respect for the judicial system,” commented Justice Mishra. Within hours, the DoT began issuing orders asking telcos to clear dues by Friday midnight.

“We don’t know who is creating this nonsense. Who is generating all this? Is there no law left in the country? I am literally anguished. I feel I should not work in this court and in this system.

I am very anguished. I am saying this with full sense of responsibility... I don’t get angry like this, but I am totally lost how to work in this system and this country,” Justice Mishra said even as Solicitor General Tushar Mehta tendered an apology and said the desk officer cannot do this.

“As the Solicitor General of the country, have you asked him (desk officer) to withdraw this? This cannot be tolerated. We cannot function in this fashion. Let us wind up the SC if your desk officer has this audacity. News reports are being published. Who is sponsoring all this?” the Bench asked.

In a setback to beleaguered telecom companies, the SC had dismissed the review petitions filed by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and others seeking review of its order.

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