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Telecom department withdraws no coercive order against telcos; directs immediate action over non-payment of dues

The telecom department has withdrawn its order that asked for no coercive action against telecom companies defaulting on statutory dues payment after the Supreme Court on Friday took a strong view of non-compliance with its order.

The order also directs field offices to take "immediate necessary action" in compliance with the October judgment of the Supreme Court.

The direction by the DoT says its previous order dated January 23, 2020 "stands withdrawn with immediate effect".

"It is directed to take immediate necessary action in compliance with the judgement dated October 24, 2019 of the Supreme Court," said the fresh order issued by the DoT soon after the apex court made its observations on Friday.

The department's move came after the Supreme Court on Friday directed the managing directors and directors of telcos and other firms to explain why contempt action be not taken against them for non-compliance of its order to pay adjusted gross revenue (AGR) of Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the Department of Telecommunications.

Taking strong note of the non-compliance of its order, a bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice M R Shah expressed anguish over the order passed by DoT's desk officer, staying the effect of its verdict in AGR matter.

"Is there no law left in the country", an anguished Supreme Court Judge asked on Friday while directing the top echelons of telecom firms to explain why contempt action should not be taken against them for non-compliance of its order to pay adjusted gross revenue of Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the telecom department.

It said a desk officer wrote a letter to Attorney General K K 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 was taken against them.

Hearing pleas filed by Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel, and Tata Teleservices seeking more time for payment of AGR related dues, the apex court expressed serious displeasure as to how a desk officer can pass such an order which stays the effect of the apex court's judgment.

Also Read: 'Is there no law left in the country?': Justice Arun Mishra tells telecom firms over non-compliance of AGR dues