New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on Telcos, the government and even the media as it said no further objection to its adjusted gross revenue (AGR) order will be allowed against the payable dues which sums up to Rs 1.47 lakh crore.
"Won't tolerate this. Companies want to hoodwink us. If required we will summon the MDs of all the telcom companies and send them to jail from here only. These companies are the usurpers of public money and don't even want to pay a fraction of revenue earned," said Justice Arun Mishra.
"All the newspapers are trying to influence courts. All the companies are trying to influence us through the media," said Justice Arun Mishra.
The court said: "Actions of telcom companies tantamount to seeking to bypass our judgement. All dues as per our judgement will have to be paid, including interest and penalty."
In its order, the three-judge bench led by Justice Arun Mishra, and comprising Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and M.R. Shah held that no self-assessment can be done on AGR dues and no further objection on its verdict would be entertained.
The apex court noted that the same government that had fought tooth and nail, and suggested penalty during arguments earlier was now wishing to do away with the interest. "If reassessment is permitted - it is fraud on this court," Justice Arun Mishra said and added he cannot begin a thrid round of litigation and asked the Centre who has permitted "self assessment of dues".
This was after the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking its approval for a 20-year window for payment of around Rs 1.47 lakh crore AGR dues, as adverse functioning of the telecom firms could put a negative impact on the economy and consumers across the country.
The DoT demand has been confirmed by this court, Justice Mishra said on Wednesday and asked "how can there be self assessment. This cannot be allowed when the Supreme Court clearly spells out the dues."
While hearing the Centre's plea seeking a 20-year window for payment of dues by telecom firms, Justice Mishra said: "Where did the concept of self-assessment come in? Who permitted self-assessment without permission of this court? This is sheer contempt of court."
He did not mince any words against the media and said the newspapers are trying to influence courts. The court said it will consider a government rescue plan for telecom companies in AGR case on next hearing which will be after two weeks.
Justice Mishra also said: "This is a question of apex court prestige 'Do companies feel they are more powerful on earth?" he asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta representing the Department of Telecommunications.
The bench - comprising Mishra, Nazeer and Shah had upheld the DoT definition of AGR in the court ruling on October 24, 2019.
The top court observed that the DoT demand has been confirmed by this court, "how can there be self-assessment? This is impermissible".
The court observed that some telecom players have suggested they need 8-10 months' time to corroborate numbers of self-assessment, but "this cannot be allowed". Instead, the top court insisted that dues have been finalised by the court.
On March 16, the Solicitor General appearing for the DoT had sought staggered payment over 20 years of AGR dues by telecom companies.
Centre cited adverse impact on the economy, telecom sector and banking sectors. The telecom companies total AGR dues are a staggering Rs 1.47 lakh crore.