Law & Justice

SC reserves order on Ericsson’s contempt plea against RCom chief Anil Ambani, others

Ericsson's contempt pleaThe Supreme Court Wednesday reserved its verdict on Ericsson India’s plea looking contempt action against Reliance Communications Ltd chairman Anil Ambani and two others for non-clearance of its Rs 550-crore dues.

A bench of justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran said it is reserving its verdict.

At the time of the hearing, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Ericsson India, said there was willful disobedience of apex court’s orders and contempt action should be initiated against them.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for RCom, countered the argument and said no contempt was made as no orders of the major court were violated.

Ambani, Reliance Telecom Ltd chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel Ltd chairperson Chhaya Virani, were present in the courtroom.

The court had on October 23 last year questioned RCom to clear the dues by December 15, 2018, saying delayed payment would attract the interest of 12 percent per annum.

The plea by Ericsson had sought that the court directs Ambani and the lender’s forum to hand over the Rs 550 crore with interest from sale proceeds as per the October 23 order.

On Tuesday, Dave told the top court that Reliance has committed contempt a number of times and they have not purged themselves.

He stated that RCom violated two orders of the top court and even committed perjury by concealing information under oath.

Rohatgi alleged 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 insolvency.

Dave claimed that in its BSE filings Reliance has claimed that they have got Rs 3,000 crore and Rs 2,000 crore from sale of assets to different firms including Reliance Jio recently.

Rohatgi stated that money has not been received by Reliance.

On January 7, RCom had said that it would deposit two demand drafts of Rs 118 crore to set up its bona fide with the apex court registry and told the court that it would pay the remaining amount in due course.

Besides looking contempt proceedings against RCom chairman and two others, Ericsson had also sought that they are “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 company had stated that RCom has “willfully 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 crores and challenged the debt-ridden firm before National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

The top court had perused last year’s May 30 interim order of the NCLAT and stated 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, fiber, telecom towers and certain real estate assets for an aggregate value of approximately Rs 25,000 crore.

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