New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday held Reliance Communication chairman Anil Ambani and two directors guilty of contempt of court on a plea filed by Telecom equipment manufacturer Ericsson India against him over not clearing its dues of Rs 550 crore.
The apex court has ruled that Ambani and two directors have to pay Rs 453 crore to Ericsson India within four weeks and failing to do so, three months’ jail term will follow.
The SC has also imposed a fine of Rs 1 crore each on them. If that’s not deposited within a month, 1-month jail will be awarded.
The other two directors are Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel chairperson Chhaya Virani.
The court directed that Rs 118 crore already deposited by Reliance Group in the apex court’s registry be disbursed to Ericsson. “From the undertakings given by Reliance Group’s top brass, it appears they have wilfully not paid the amount to Ericsson despite orders,” it said.
It specified that any unconditional apology given by Reliance needs to be rejected as they have breached the undertaking and order.
Earlier, the bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran had reserved its judgement when Ericsson India had alleged that the Reliance Group had money to invest in the Rafale jet deal but was unable to clear its dues, a charge which was vehemently denied by Ambani.
He told the court that his company had begun insolvency proceedings and he was not in control of the funds. Reliance Communications also told the court it had tried to move “heaven and earth” to ensure Ericsson got its due but was unable to do so as its assets sale deal with Jio had failed.
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).
On May 30 last year, the apex court had perused the interim order of the NCLAT and noted that Ericsson India was willing to settle its debt of over Rs 1,500 crore for Rs 550 crore to be paid by RCom within 120 days.
Then, on August 3, it allowed RCom to sell assets for an aggregate value of approximately Rs 25,000 crore.