Today, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) withdrew its 23rd January 2020 order which stated that no coercive action shall be taken against the telecommunication companies (telecos) if they do not meet the deadline set by the Supreme Court of India for paying their dues.
DoT said, “The order dated 23 January stands withdrawn with immediate effect” in a letter issued on Friday. The letter also states that “It is directed to take immediate necessary action in compliance with the judgement dated 24 October of the Supreme Court”.
DoT’s decision comes soon after when the Supreme Court lashed out at both the government and the telecos like Vodafone Idea and Airtel and for different reasons.
The top court condemned the government as a desk officer overruled the Supreme Court’s judgment. The court said “Let the desk officer also explain why appropriate action should not be taken and he should be present on the next date of hearing. Please ask the desk officer to withdraw that dot order or he will go behind the bars by evening. We have to take action against him. Officer should understand where they should stop. It is clear contempt”.
The apex court scolded the telecos for not paying a single paisa till date as repayment of their dues. As the news surfaced, their share prices fell down.
On Friday, the Supreme Court made the grave observations that not only the telecom companies ignored its judgement of 24th October 2019 for paying the dues of Rs. 1.47 lakh crore as spectrum charges, interests, AGR, and more no later than the 23rd of January 2020 but the DoT ignore it as well.
The court said “We draw contempt against companies”.
The top court has also summoned the Managing Directors (MDs) of the telecos to appear in the next hearing.
The court has ordered the telecos to clear their dues by the 17th of March 2020, the same date of next hearing of the case.
This judgement has created problems for the telecos which have been facing huge problems in sustaining themselves. This is especially the case for Vodafone Idea, which has already said that they might have to shut their doors in India.
If the outcome of the case does not come positive, India may as well become a two major company market (Jio and Airtel) with some smaller players.
On Thursday Vodafone said, the future of Vodafone Idea in India is majorly dependent on the outcome of the case in Supreme Court and also with the agreement that happens with DoT which is, if DoT agrees on receiving payments in instalments over several years and some other reliefs that the company seeks.
Jio is the only company who has paid their dues which the company paid on the 23rd of January 2020. On the other hand, Airtel has raised $ 3 billion for repayment of its dues.