New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on Ericsson India’s plea seeking 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. During the hearing, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Ericsson India, said there was wilful 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 apex court were violated. Ambani, Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel chairperson Chhaya Virani, were present in the courtroom. The court had on October 23 last year 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. On Tuesday, Dave told the top court that Reliance has committed contempt a number of times and they have not purged themselves. He said that RCom violated two orders of the top court and even committed perjury by concealing information under oath.
Rohatgi said 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 received Rs 3,000 crore and Rs 2,000 crore from sale of assets to different firms including Reliance Jio recently.
Rohatgi said 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 establish its bona fide with the apex court registry and told the court that it would pay the remaining amount in due course. Besides seeking contempt proceedings against RCom chairman and two others, Ericsson had also sought that they be “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 alleged that RCom has “wilfully 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 crore 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 noted 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, fibre, telecom towers and certain real estate assets for an aggregate value of approximately Rs 25,000 crore.