New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up Vodafone Idea over the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues and warned the telecom company of strict actions on non-compliance of its orders.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra was hearing the matter pertaining to the payment around Rs 92,000 crore in AGR due to the Central government by telecom companies.
Senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Vodafone Idea, submitted that it has filed balance sheets and tax details of a decade, after which the bench asked him how the apex court rely on the company to pay the AGR dues if it has been running in losses for decades.
"I said, humbly that the Supreme Court order should be honoured. If the verdict can't be honoured in one stroke, it should be in parts," Rohatgi said.
Justice Mishra, responding to Rohatgi, said, "If you won't comply with our orders, we will strictly take action against you. This is a very serious matter. We may send directly to jail who is doing wrong things from here." Appearing for Huges Telecom, senior advocate Kapil Sibal submitted that Rs 27 crore have been submitted towards AGR dues by the company, to which Solicitor General Tushar Mehta responded by saying the outstanding amount against the telco is around Rs 540 crores.
Opposing it, Sibal said, "We have never known that this is the outstanding amount against us. We always know that there is an outstanding of roughly around Rs 150 crores." Mehta also added that the liabilities of Airtel are Rs 23,980 crore and AGR dues of Vodafone Idea are Rs 58,254 crore.
Refusing to hear arguments for reassessment, Justice Arun Mishra warned lawyers of imposing "exemplary costs on telecom companies" and said that the telecom companies' lawyers are wasting their own time and that of the court.
"We can impose heavy penalty and cost on you. Why you people are arguing for this now," Justice Arun Mishra said.
Bharti Airtel lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the company's remaining liability is only Rs 30 billion, to which, the judge said, "you are disputing liability of over Rs 200 billion. We won't permit Bharti Airtel to recalculate dues." Mohan Parasaran, one of the lawyers for Tata, pleaded to pay the amount over a period of 15-20 years. Justice MR Shah, another judge in the bench, said it is unreasonable.
"Please tell us a reasonable time frame. 15-20 years is not the answer. Be reasonable and one type of security can be there. Our country's revenue should be secured. You all have to be reasonable with your prayers. You are virtually dragging us to a corner," Justice Shah observed.
Mukul Rohatgi, with folded hands, prayed before the apex court to grant 15 years' time to pay the rest of the amount. Singhvi also said that Bharti Airtel will also pay the rest of the amount over a period of 15 years.Preference plan probe among top priority, hope to finalise views in 2 weeks: Trai source
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