In a major setback, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held Reliance Communications chairman Anil Ambani guilty of contempt in Ericsson India case. The top court said that Ambani will go to jail if he fails to pay Rs 450 crore within three months. Along with Ambani, two other directors were also held guilty. The other two directors are Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel chairperson Chhaya Virani. The top court slapped a fine of Rs 1 crore each on them. The apex court said that they will be awarded with jail term in case they do not deposit the money with one month. Coming down heavily on the business tycoon, the top court said that, “unconditional apology by Reliance cannot be accepted given the attitude of the deponent to the highest court of the land.” Reacting to the verdict, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi who appeared for Anil Ambani said that, “we respect the Supreme Court verdict, I am sure RComm will honour directions.”
Wednesday’s verdict was delivered by Bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman and Vineet Saran. The top court was of the firm view that the chairman RCom and the three companies - RCom, Reliance Telecom and Reliance infratech "wilfully defaulted" on payment of money and breached the undertaking given to court, thus making out ground for contempt.
On February 13, the Supreme Court Bench had reserved the judgment when Ericsson India had alleged that the Reliance Group has money to invest in the Rafale jet deal but they were unable to clear its Rs 550-crore dues, a charge which was vehemently denied by the Anil Ambani-led company.
Ambani had told the top court that with the failure of its assets sale deal with elder brother Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio his company has entered insolvency proceedings and is not in control of the funds. Reliance Communications (RCom) had told the court they had tried to move "heaven and earth" to ensure Ericsson gets its due but was unable to do so due to failure of assets sale deal with Jio.
On October 23, 2018, the top court had 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 order.
(With PTI inputs)