On Friday, the Supreme Court of India came down heavily on five telecom operators - Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance Communications and several others for adopting delaying-tactics. The court had earlier directed the operators to pay "a sizeable amount" of their statutory dues to the federal government. The total sums involved are equivalent to around $21 billion.
The Supreme Court expressed grave concern that these companies have not paid anything to the federal government in the last 20 years, including fees owed to the federal government for telecom licence fees and spectrum use charges.
Under the National Telecom Policy, 1994 licences were issued to telecom operators for a fixed licence fee. However, as the fee was very high, the government offered to charge it in the form of revenue share. The Supreme Court dismissed the plea of telecom companies for a review.
Friday's order essentially means that major Indian telecom companies will have to pay the amounts owed by the end of the day itself. Vodafone-Idea needs to pay around $7.46 billion with Airtel' owing almost $5 billion.
The apex court also issued a notice of contempt of court to an officer of the Department of Telecommunications, who allegedly issued a notification freezing the recovery of the money.