Clear dues to Ericsson or go to jail: SC to Anil Ambani
NEW DELHI: Observing there was a ‘wilful default,’ the Supreme Court on Wednesday held Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Communication (RCom), guilty of contempt of court and ordered the debt-laden company to clear the Rs 453 crore dues to Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson within four weeks or face a 3-month jail term.
In a verdict that came as a setback to Ambani, the apex court also pulled up the industrialist for his “cavalier attitude” demonstrated through the affidavit filed in the court and said any “unconditional apology” given must be rejected.
Besides Ambani, the court held Reliance Telecom Ltd chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel Ltd Chhaya Virani as well as their three companies guilty of contempt of court.
“The RCom Group is directed to purge the contempt of this court by payment to Ericsson the sum of Rs 453 crore within a period of four weeks from today. In default of such payment, the chairmen who have given undertakings to this court will suffer three months imprisonment,” said a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran. It directed the registry of the apex court to pay Rs 118 crore deposited by the RCom Group to Ericsson within a period of one week from Wednesday.
The court said there is no doubt that the three Reliance companies have “wilfully not paid the sum of Rs 550 crore plus interest and have thus breached the undertakings given to this court.” “We are also of the view that in the facts of the present case, willful default is made out…,” the court said, adding it is not a case of accidental or unintentional disobedience.
It also imposed Rs one crore fine on each of the three companies and directed the amount to be deposited with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee within four weeks from Wednesday and in case of default the chairmen of these companies will have to undergo one month’s imprisonment.
Shortly after the pronouncement of the verdict, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Ambani, said he respects the decision of the apex court and expressed confidence that the Group will honour the directions on payment of dues to Ericsson.
“We respect the Supreme Court’s order. We have faced our difficulties. However, the court ruled the way it has ruled,” Rohatgi said. “I am sure Rcom will honour the Supreme Court’s order,” he added.