SC refuses to accept Vodafone’s proposal

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today rejected telecom firm Vodafone’s proposal to pay Rs 2,500 crore by the end of the day and Rs 1,000 crore by Friday against Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues, while also refusing its plea that no coercive action be taken against it.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra declined to accept the proposal given by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Vodafone, after he mentioned the matter.

Rohatgi said they are willing to pay Rs 2,500 crore today (Monday) and another Rs 1,000 crore by Friday but no coercive action be taken against the company.

He urged the bank guarantee deposited with the government by Vodafone should also not be encashed.

The top court had on Friday warned of contempt proceedings against top executives of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and other telecom firms for failing to comply with its directive to pay an estimated Rs 1.47 lakh crore in past dues, and asked whether there was no law left in the country.

With the apex court’s rap, the government came down heavily on telcos following which Bharti Airtel on Monday said it has paid Rs 10,000 crore to the telecom department towards statutory dues.

The company said it will make payment of balance amount after self-assessment exercise. ”The…amount of Rs 10,000 crore has been paid on behalf of Bharti Airtel, Bharti Hexacom, and Telenor”, the Sunil Mittal-led company said in a statement.

In the Friday order which will have a far-reaching implications for the telecom sector, the apex court expressed displeasure at the ”temerity” of a desk officer in the Department of Telecom for ”scuttling” its order by issuing a written directive to not take any coercive action against firms for not depositing dues by the 23 January, 2020, deadline.

The bench, also comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah, said the companies have violated its order ”in pith and substance” and asked them to clear dues before the next date of hearing on 17 March. Following the apex court rap, the Department of Telecom withdrew its 23 January, 2020 order that had called for no coercive action against defaulting firms and started issuing notices to telcos asking them to deposit dues before midnight of Friday.

Expressing displeasure over an order passed by the DoT’s desk officer, which virtually stayed the effect of its verdict, the apex court said this is nothing ”but a device to scuttle” its judgment and this case projects a ”very disturbing scenario”. It issued a notice to the officer.