SC asks telco directors to be present for next AGR hearing

New Delhi, Feb 14
"I am literally shocked" said Justice Arun Mishra as the Supreme Court on Friday initiated contempt proceedings against telecom companies for non-payment of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues and directed that all directors of the companies be present at the next hearing.

A three-judge Supreme Court Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Abdul Nazeer and M.R. Shah directed the presence of all Directors of the telecom companies, including the Managing Director, on the next date of hearing. The matter will be heard next on March 17.

"I am literally shocked," Justice Arun Mishra remarked as he observed that not a "single penny has been paid till date".

Justice Mishra said: "Is there no law left in this country? I am literally anguished. I should not work in this country at all. I am saying this with some responsibility..."

"This cannot happen in this country. We cannot function in this fashion. Let's wind up the Supreme Court.. It is better to leave this country. They can stay the order? There is so much money power..," Justice Mishra added.

The Supreme Court pulled up the Department of Telecom desk officer who wrote to the Attorney General asking him to not insist on payment of dues till further orders.

The DoT had reportedly issued a circular stating that no coercive action should be taken against the operators for non-payment of AGR dues within the timeframe set by the Supreme Court.

Expressing his anguish on the manner in which the order of the Supreme Court was "stayed" by a desk officer, Justice Mishra said,

"If this is not the outcome of money power.. let me speak! This is not the way your Officer should behave".

Justice Mishra said he was "literally anguished" by the manner in which the order passed by the Supreme Court was not being followed.

Bharti Airtel had submitted that 90 days is not a sufficient time to undergo the process of evaluating dues and payment. It was also added that irreparable damage may be caused to the telecom industry.

Vodafone had detailed the financial stress the company was facing and said that it was not in a position to make a payment upfront, or provide a bank guarantee.