Pay dues to Ericsson or go to jail: SC to Anil Ambani
The Supreme Court on Wednesday held RCom chairman Anil Ambani and two others guilty of contempt of court for violating its order to pay dues of Rs 550 crore to Ericsson.
The apex court said they faced a three-month jail term if Rs 453 crore was not paid to the telecom equipment maker in four weeks.
The Supreme Court held that the RCom chairman as well as Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel chairperson Chhaya Virani had breached the undertaking given to the apex court and related orders.
A bench of Justices R.F. Nariman and Vineet Saran said Ambani and the others would have to purge contempt by paying Rs 453 crore to Ericsson in four weeks. If the 'contemnors' failed to make the payments within the specified period, they would have to go to prison for three months, it added.
Ambani, Seth and Virani were present in the courtroom when the verdict was pronounced.
The apex court also directed Reliance Communication, Reliance Telecommunication and Reliance Infratel to deposit Rs 1 crore each in four weeks to the apex court registry. If not, the chairpersons of these companies would have to undergo an additional jail term of one month.
It directed that Rs 118 crore already deposited by Reliance Group in the apex court registry be disbursed to Ericsson within a week.
'From undertakings given by Reliance Group's top brass, it appears they have wilfully not paid the amount to Ericsson despite orders and undertakings given,' it said.
The apex court specified that any unconditional apology given by Reliance needs to be rejected as they have breached the undertaking and order.
The bench said the three Reliance companies had not adhered to the 120-day deadline and the 60 extra days the apex court had given them to pay Rs 550 crore to Ericsson.
It said the undertakings given in the court were false and affected the administration of justice.
'We respect the Supreme Court's order. We have faced our difficulties. However, the court ruled the way it has ruled,' senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Ambani, said minutes after the verdict was pronounced. 'I am sure Rcom will honour the Supreme Court's order.'
On February 13, the apex court reserved its judgment when Ericsson India alleged that the Reliance Group has money to invest in the Rafale jet deal but was unable to clear its Rs 550-crore dues, a charge vehemently denied by the Anil Ambani-led company.
Ambani told the top court that his company had tried to move 'heaven and earth' to ensure Ericsson gets its due. With the failure of its assets sale deal with the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio, RCom company has entered insolvency proceedings and is not in control of the funds, he added.
The apex court had given one last opportunity to RCom on October 23 last year for clearing the settlement amount and had asked it to clear dues by December 15, 2018, saying delayed payment would attract an interest of 12 per cent per annum.
The court had said Ericsson could revive its contempt plea against Reliance if the amount was not paid by December 15, 2018.