New Delhi, Feb 12 (PTI) The Supreme Court Tuesday adjourned for tomorrow the hearing on a contempt plea filed by Ericsson India against Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom) Chairman Anil Ambani and others for not clearing its dues of Rs 550 crore and asked the alleged contemnors to be present.
Ambani, Reliance Telecom Ltd Chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel Ltd Chairperson Chhaya Virani, who have been issued contempt notices by the apex court on January 7, were present in the courtroom.
A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Sharan said that due to the paucity of time the hearing on the plea would continue tomorrow.
The bench said that a special bench would assemble in the post-lunch session and therefore hearing on the plea would not be possible.
During the brief hearing, senior advocate Dusyant Dave appearing for Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson said that Reliance has committed contempt a number of times and they have not purged themselves.
He said RCom violated two orders of the top court and even committed perjury by concealing information under oath.
Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Kapil Sibal, appearing for Reliance said that no contempt was made out as our attempt to save the company did not go well.
Rohatgi said the deal worth Rs 25,000 crore to sell assets of the telecom company to Reliance Jio has fallen through and now they are in the insolvency.
“They (Ericsson) wanted proceedings under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) and now we are under it,” he said.
Ericsson’s counsel Dave countered the arguments and said: “They (Reliance) wrote to us on January 21 saying that they wanted to clear the dues and demand drafts are ready but we have to withdraw our contempt petition from this court”.
He said Ericsson replied to them that the case cannot be withdrawn as apex court has already issued notice.
“To our surprise, on February 1, they made a public statement that they have decided to opt for insolvency proceedings. Now we have come to square one,” he said.
Dave claimed that in its BSE filings Reliance has claimed that they have received Rs 3,000 crore and Rs 2,000 crore from sale of assets to different firms including Reliance Jio recently.
“This information was not revealed to the court by them in the affidavit and hence committed perjury. They are not candid. They have pocketed all the money,” he alleged.
Rohatgi said that money has not been received by Reliance.
The bench after perusing the two letters given Dave said that no where it has been written that the money has been received by Reliance.
Dave replied that Ericsson is in complete darkness as various lenders are taking their money back directly.
The hearing remained inconclusive and would continue tomorrow.
At the fag end of hearing, Rohatgi enquired from the bench whether Ambani and two others would be present in the court room, to which the bench said, “Yes Yes”.
Ambani, in navy blue suit, arrived in the courtroom at around 10 AM and along with Satish Seth and Chhaya Virani had to wait for nearly two and half hours for their case to be taken up at 12.45 PM.
On January 7, RCom had said that it would deposit two demand drafts of Rs 118 crore to establish its bona fide with the apex court registry and told the court that it would pay the remaining outstanding amount in due course.
Besides seeking contempt proceedings against RCom chairman and two others, Ericsson had also sought that they be “detained in civil prison” unless they purge themselves by making the payment.
It had also sought directions to the Ministry of Home Affairs to prevent Ambani, Satish Seth and Chhaya Virani from leaving the country.
The apex court had on October 23 last year asked RCom to clear the dues by December 15, 2018 saying delayed payment would attract an interest of 12 per cent per annum.
The plea by Ericsson had sought that the court direct Ambani and the lenders forum to hand over the Rs 550 crore with interest from sale proceeds as per the October 23, last year order.
In its first contempt plea, Ericsson had sought action against Ambani and others for failing to pay Rs 550 crore towards settlement to the company by September-end last year.
The company had alleged that RCom has “wilfully and consciously” defied the order dated August 3, 2018 of the top court and the undertaking given before it to pay up by September-end last year.
Ericsson India, which had signed a seven-year deal in 2014 to operate and manage RCom’s nationwide telecom network, had alleged that it had not been paid the dues of over 1,500 crore and challenged the debt-ridden firm before National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).
The top court had perused the May 30 last year interim order of the NCLAT and noted that Ericsson India was willing to settle its debt of over Rs 1,500 crore for a sum of Rs 550 crore which was to be paid by RCom within 120 days.
It had on August 3 last year allowed RCom to sell assets covering spectrum, fibre, telecom towers and certain real estate assets for an aggregate value of approximately Rs 25,000 crore.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.