New Delhi: Expressing its "deep anguish", the Supreme Court on Friday issued show cause notices of contempt to top brass of several telecom companies, including Vodafone and Airtel, over non-payment of dues towards Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) to the tune of over Rs 1.5 lakh crore.
The top court reprimanded the telecom companies for not having paid in compliance of the court's October 2019 judgment that obligated Vodafone Idea to cough up over Rs 50,000 crore to DoT, while Bharti Airtel has to pay Rs 35,586 crore.
Summoning the CMDs and MDs of the telecom companies on March 17, a bench led by Justice Arun Mishra clarified that this was their "last opportunity" to show defence to the court orders and that the top brass will face the music if they fail to do so.
“Corruption of all kinds must stop. This is the last opportunity and last warning," commented the judge, adding that telcos have shown "scant respect" for the orders of the apex court.
The bench, which included Justices SA Nazeer and MR Shah, also lashed out at an officer in the DoT who had issued an order, in effect staying the operation of the court judgment.
The DoT officer has also been issued a notice of contempt and he has been called upon in the court to explain his conduct. The bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the DoT officer's order must be withdrawn by the evening or he should be ready to go to jail.
"Should we wind up the Supreme Court? Is there any law left in the country? How can a government desk officers stay the Supreme Court order? What action has the government taken against him?" the court asked Mehta.
While Mehta said he will look into the concerns, Justice Mishra retorted that there was nothing more to be said about this officer's action.
"Is this not about money power? Who is sponsoring all this? At whose behest, he did this? Should we say this officer was hand in gloves with those who didn't want to pay? We are drawing up contempt proceedings against him," he added.
"Our conscience has been shaken by the way things are happening in the country. We have dismissed review plea in adjusted gross revenue case but still not a single penny deposited,” the bench remarked, adding that then you have a desk officer who has “the temerity of staying the court order."
The judge observed that he didn't feel like continuing in the system anymore in view of the manner in which things were happening.
"I don't care about myself but what is happening with the system? This is completely shocking. The way mentionings are done, matters are listed...it is all very shocking. We will do our best to fix this," maintained the judge.