‘Seek AGR dues by Jan 23, SC has not stayed order’

New Delhi: The Department of Telecom will stick to the Supreme Court's original order of October 24 in which the apex court had asked the telecom companies to pay AGR dues by January 23.

As there is no stay on the October order, the DoT has decided to implement it in letter and sprit and would treat non-payment of AGR dues by January 23 as non-compliance inviting penalty, a senior official said, adding telcos should show the intent of paying by that date.

"We interpret it as the deadline of January 23 stays since the Court has not stayed the October 24 order. We will expect them (telecom firms) to honour the order and any failure from their side will be treated as non-compliance and appropriate penalty will be levied," said a source associated with the development from the department said.

"Supreme Court has not modified the order. It has merely listed hearing the plea of association of unified telecom service providers by the bench (that gave order in October) next week. Our reading is this does not change the deadline in any manner. The October order of SC stands including the three month deadline of January 23," the source added.

Earlier, telcos -- Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Teleservices -- moved the SC seeking time to clear Rs 1.47 lakh crore dues.

DoT officials said what the court will decide next week is not the point of changing the deadline of January 23.

"The court has just listed their (telcos) plea for next week without touching the material content of the order so where does that leave any ambiguities for changing the content of the October 24 order?" a source said.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra will hear next week the plea of telecom companies seeking a fresh schedule on the payment of dues nearly Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the Department of Telecommunications.

A battery of senior advocates, including A.M. Singhvi and C.A. Sundaram, were present in the court.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices S.A. Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna, said it will list the fresh pleas in the next week before the same bench, which had heard the earlier petition at length and then passed its verdict on the matter.

On January 16, a bench headed by Justice Mishra had dismissed petitions of telecom companies seeking review of the earlier order passed by the bench headed by him, ordering them to pay Rs 92,000 crore in statutory dues by January 23.

One of the senior advocate contended before the court that the companies do not dispute the payment, but they need to work out a fresh schedule to clear the dues.

As the telecom companies said they would prefer open court hearing on the plea especially in connection with the dues, the court replied that the nature of hearing (open court or in-chambers) would be decided by the bench looking into the matter.

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