New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) After being rapped by the Supreme Court for failing to deposit AGR dues, Vodafone Idea on Monday moved the apex court saying it can pay only Rs 2,500 crore of the arrears to the government as of now and will follow it up with another Rs 1,000 crore by February 21.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra declined to accept the proposal submitted by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Vodafone, after he mentioned the matter.
The telecom firm also appealed to the top court that the Department of Telecom should not take any coercive action and invoke bank guarantees, as an action of this nature would have consequences and would eventually hamper their operations.
The Supreme Court declined to entertain the telco’s plea seeking “no coercive action”. According to the counsels, Vodafone Idea contended before the court that Rs 3,500 crore is 50 per cent of its estimated principle AGR dues of Rs 7,000 crore.
Vodafone Idea is estimated to pay Rs 53,000 crore to the government as part of its AGR dues. According to reports, it has informed the government that it is examining all the avenues as to how much of AGR dues it could pay off.
Last Friday, the top court had made scathing remarks on the telecos, which did not clear AGR dues despite a judgement directing the firms to pay the dues to the government.
The top court also slammed the Centre, as a desk officer in the Department of Telecom attempted to scuttle its order by issuing a direction stating that no coercive action be taken against the telcos for not depositing AGR dues by the January 23, 2020, deadline.
The bench, also comprising Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and M.R. Shah, asked the companies to clear their dues before the next date of hearing on March 17. The top court also summoned the top bosses of these companies on the next day of the hearing.
Justice Arun Mishra had said, “Should we wind up this court? A desk officer considers himself judge and stays this court’s orders. How can this officer stay our orders? Who is this desk officer?”
The letter was written last month by an officer in the Licensing Finance Policy Wing, under DoT, saying no coercive action will be taken against telecos if they fail to comply with the top court’s order until further orders.
Justice Mishra questioned the Centre’s representative Solicitor General Tushar Mehta as to how can a desk officer say coercive action won’t be taken until further orders?
Further reprimanding the government on the conduct of a desk officer to stay the apex court’s order, the SC bench said this officer has written a letter to the Attorney General, the top law officer, and other constitutional authorities directing them not to insist on payment of money by the telecos.
The top court summoned the concerned officer along with the top bosses of the telecos for failing to clear AGR dues to the tune of Rs 1.47 lakh crore. Justice Mishra directed the DoT to withdraw the letter by evening. The department has complied with this direction.
“Nonsense has been created. There is no law in the country,” an anguished Justice Mishra said.