DoT Withdraws Order Protecting Telcos After Stern SC Rap
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Friday withdrew its direction granting protection from coercive action to defaulting telecom companies after the Supreme Court earlier in the day took a strong view of non-compliance of its order on payment of statutory dues and blamed both the DoT and the telcos.
Sources said that the DoT would submit the entire chain of facts and discussions and record notings leading to a desk officer issuing the letter which cannot be an individual action but took place with approval from the competent authority and his seniors in the Supreme Court on March 17 and would apprise Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on the issue.
Sources also said since a review petition and later a modification petition were filed, the recovery was pending. DoT is preparing its case and is likely to seek Law Ministry's views over it.
According to the sources, the DoT withdrew its order immediately after the Supreme Court 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 DoT.
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 on March 17.
The DoT desk officer's letter directing no coercive action against the telecom companies for not paying dues, had irked the top court with Justice Mishra, asking: "Should we wind up this court? A desk officer considers himself a judge and stays this court's orders... how can this officer stay our orders, who is this desk officer?"
The letter, written last month, by an officer in the Licensing Finance Policy Wing, under the DoT, said no coercive action to be taken against telecom companies if they fail to comply with the top court order until further orders.
Reprimanding the government on the desk officer's conduct, the court said this officer has written a letter to the Attorney General, the top law officer, and other constitutional authorities directing them not insist on payment of money by the telecom companies.
Justice Mishra also directed the DoT to withdraw the letter by evening.