New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday granted Reliance Communications (RCom) an extension till December 15 to pay the Rs 550 crore it owes Ericsson India and made it clear that this was the last opportunity for the Indian company to repay its dues. RCom had in May pledged before the top court that it would pay the amount to the Swedish equipment maker by September 30, but failed to do so.
The apex court on Tuesday said RCom will have to pay 12 per cent interest, starting September 30, on the Rs 550-crore payment. A bench of Justice Rohinton Nariman and Justice Abdul Nazeer were hearing an application by RCom seeking more time, and a contempt petition by Ericsson India against RCom promoter Anil Ambani for his company’s failure to pay off dues, despite the undertaking to the top court.
The apex court will ensure that Ericsson gets its money back, Nariman assured the Swedish company, but added that the company should focus on the repayment rather than the contempt proceedings. Nariman told Ericsson’s lawyer Dushyant Dave that contempt proceedings can be revived against RCom and Anil Ambani if payments are not made by December 15.
Appearing for RCom, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal submitted before the Supreme Court that the company has not been able to sell its 800 MHz spectrum to Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm because the telecom department has not given a no-objection certificate to the proposed sale.
Sibal also submitted that his client had received a Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal order that asked the Department of Telecommunications to issue a no-objection certificate for the deal. Dave, appearing for Ericsson, said that when RCom had made the commitment to pay Rs 550 crore by Sept 30, it was not a conditional commitment. He also argued that RComm has already sold assets worth tens of billions of rupees, which it allowed to go directly to banks.
Sibal, on the other hand, said RCom has not received “a single penny” from these asset sales as all proceeds went to banks. RCom owed about Rs 1,500 crore to Ericsson India for telecom equipment it had purchased from the Swedish company. Ericsson later settled the case after RCom agreed to pay Rs 550 crore by Sep 30.