In a huge blow to Reliance Communications chairman Anil Ambani, the Supreme Court on Monday held the RCom boss guilty of contempt, ruling that the embattled telco should pay Ericsson Rs 550 crore within four weeks.
The Apex court further ruled that Ambani will be sent to jail for three months if it defaults on payment. However, the RCom said it will comply with the apex court orders.
“Three Reliance companies had no intention of payment of money, it amounts to contempt,” the SC said in its judgement. “Unconditional apology by Reliance can’t be accepted given the attitude of the deponent to the highest court of the land,”
The Supreme Court’s verdict was on Ericsson AB’s contempt petition against Reliance Communications and its Chairman Anil Ambani for non-payment of Rs 550 crore dues to the Swedish company.
It may be noted that earlier the Swedish telecom equipment maker had petitioned the apex court to prevent Anil Ambani from leaving the country and be detained in civil prison unless the payment is made.
Earlier the top court had refused to clear RCom’s plan to sell spectrum to Reliance Jio unless the Mukesh Ambani-owned company agreed to assume payment liabilities of RCom. RJio stuck to its stand, reiterating that the telco can’t be held liable for RCom’s past liabilities and wanted an assurance from the telecom department (DoT) on this, which the Centre refused to give.
Earlier defending Anil Ambani, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi had said the undertaking to pay dues was subject to the spectrum sale deal between RCom and Reliance Jio going through. Despite best efforts to get permissions to sell the assets to Jio, the deal could not go through due to failure to secure a no-objection certificate from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Rohatgi had said.
“We could manage only Rs 780 crore in the sale with Jio, which was routed to the DoT through lenders to avoid cancellations of the licences,” Rohatgi had said.
It may be noted that the Anil Ambani-controlled telecom firm had filed a contempt proceeding in the SC against the DoT, alleging it for delaying a spectrum sale that would have helped the company to clear dues to Ericsson and lenders.