India, Feb. 15 -- The government on Friday set a minute-to-midnight deadline for telecom companies, including Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, to pay the Rs 1.47 lakh crore they owe towards spectrum charges and licence fees, after a livid Supreme Court took the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and cellular operators to task over the non-enforcement of an October ruling by the top court.

"...you are hereby directed to make the payment of outstanding dues of LF and SUC (license fee and spectrum usage charges) by 14.02.2020, 11.59 pm positively," read one DoT order sent to telecom operators, shortly after it withdrew a January 23 order that no coercive action be taken against the defaulters. The orders were sent from DoT offices at each...