Hours after Supreme Court asked the defaulting telecom firms to be present in the court on March 17, government has asked them to pay their dues by 11.59 pm on Friday, reported PTI.
Earlier, "Is there no law left in the country", an anguished Supreme Court 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.
Taking strong note of the non-compliance of its order, the top court expressed displeasure over an order passed by the Department of Telecom's desk officer staying the effect of its verdict in the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) matter.
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 telcom 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.
"How can a desk officer do this to the Supreme Court's order. Is this the law of the country. Is this the way you treat the courts," the three-member Supreme Court bench said.
Referring to the desk officer's letter to the attorney general, the apex court bench said, "This is nothing but a device to oblige the companies. This kind of order could not have been passed by a desk officer." The bench directed the managing directors and directors of the all the telcos and companies concerned to appear before it on next date of hearing on March 17 and explain why they have not deposited the money and why coercive action should not be taken against them.
The apex court also asked the desk officer of DoT to explain why appropriate action should not be taken against him for his act. It said the officers in the country must know where to stop.
The telecom companies want to negotiate a fresh payment schedule with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), which has issued demand notices to them.
(With inputs from Agencies)