Supreme Court slams telecom companies for not paying AGR dues

New Delhi: Supreme Court on Friday asked telcos to pay the sizeable amount of their statutory dues. The apex court slammed the government and the telecom companies for not following the court order ordering the recovery of AGR dues worth Rs 1.47 lakh crore from the companies.

Stocks of telcos slump: This will be a big blow to the telcos especially Vodafone Idea whose stocks slumped by 13.62% to trade at Rs 3.87 on the BSE. Airtel, however, was up by 3.54% at Rs 558.9 after SC’s observations.

The court on Friday asked that the telecom department (DoT) to revoke its executive order reversing the court order to collect the dues.

The bench led by Arun Mishra said that “These companies haven’t paid anything for 20 years by way of AGR dues”.

SC had earlier directed dues had to be paid by Jan 23: The SC has earlier directed that all AGR related dues had to be paid by January 23. The top court also rejected pleas of relief from RailTel, PowerGrid, Oil India who had petitioned for relief from AGR dues.

It was Mishra’s bench which had passed the AGR order on October 24 and since then appeals by telcos have been dismissed and were followed by modification plea filed by Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Tata Teleservices.

“A review was dismissed. There is no stay,” Mishra said. “These companies better pay sizeable amounts to show their bona fides by the end of the day,“ he added.

Contempt notices: The SC on Friday also issued contempt notices against the DoT officer for issuing such an order to the attorney generals office. The next date of hearing is March 17.

“There is no respect for the court,” the bench said asking the government to instantly withdraw the DoT order. The department on 23 January had asked its circle officers not to take any action against telcos who did not pay their AGR dues.

The latest directions mean that Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel may need to pay their respective dues of over Rs 53,000 crore and Rs 35,500 crore or at least a large part of it. Vodafone Idea has said it will collapse without any relief from the SC.

The bench also demanded to know from the managing directors and directors of the telecom companies why they should not face contempt for not abiding by the court order.