The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily against a plea by the Department of Telecommunications which sought permission to allow telecom operators to make a staggered payment of their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues.

While the two-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra deferred the matter, agreeing to hear it again after two weeks, it also fumed over how telecom operators are now ‘self-assessing’ their AGR dues and not paying what was decided upon as per the apex court’s earlier verdict.

“Self-assessment by DoT is sheer violation of our orders, sheer contempt,” Justice Arun Mishra said. “Who permitted self-assessment? CAG audit has been done. This is in contempt of our orders.”

The judge added that the court could not permit another round of litigation on the AGR issue.

To the assertion of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is appearing for the DoT, that there was no reassessment of dues and that only an extension of time was sought, Justice Mishra said: “If this is the attitude of the government, we shall recuse ourselves.”

“We cannot allow encroachment of SC judgment. If we allow these pleas, SC will be party to a fraud. We say with all responsibility that we cannot allow reopening,” the Supreme Court bench said angrily.

Justice Mishra also turned his focus and ire on the role played by the mainstream media, alleging “powerful” telecom companies were influencing newspapers.

“Telecom companies are very powerful and that is why they are influencing the newspapers to write stories every day. If we want, we can send the managing directors from the companies to jail,” Justice Mishra said.

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