The Supreme Court on Friday issued contempt notices to telecommunication firms for non-compliance of its order to pay adjusted gross revenue of Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the Department of Telecommunications, Live Law reported.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah issued the notices to Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Tata Teleservices and others, ordering them to pay the amount before the next hearing on March 17. The court said that if the amount was not paid, the managing directors and other senior officers of the companies will have to personally appear in court for the next hearing.
“We don’t know who is creating this nonsense,” the bench said according to PTI. “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”. The court also issued a contempt notice against the officer of Department of Telecommunications. “Does the Supreme Court have no value?” Mishra asked. “This is the outcome of money power!”
“We have dismissed a review plea in adjusted gross revenue case but still not a single penny has been deposited,” Mishra said. “Our conscience has been shaken by the way things are happening in the country.”
Later in the day, the telecom department withdrew its order that had asked for no coercive action against the telecom companies, PTI reported, citing sources. It added that the government had asked telecom companies to clear the dues by 11.59 pm on Friday.
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.