Pay 453 crore or face jail, Supreme Court tells Anil Ambani

New Delhi: In a setback to top business honcho Anil Ambani, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked his three companies to pay Rs 453 crore to Ericsson within four weeks, or he faces jail for three months. On February 13, the apex court had reserved its judgement when Ericsson alleged that the Reliance Group has money to invest in the Rafale jet deal but was unable to clear its Rs 550 crore dues, a charge vehemently denied by the Anil Ambani-led company.

Ambani also faces one month of jail unless each company pays a fine of Rs 1 crore to the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, the Bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Vineet Saran said, while disposing of the contempt petitions brought against the RCom Group by Ericsson for payment of Rs 550 crore with interest till date.

Ambani was present in the court in the morning when the 41-page judgment was pronounced on the three contempt petitions filed by Ericsson India against the non-payment of its dues despite the court orders. The Bench did not accept the unconditional apology tendered to the court by Ambani, noting that he had a cavalier attitude towards the top court.

His companies had refused to pay on the ground that performance of Ericsson was inconsistent. Ericsson will also get Rs 118 crore deposited by the RCom Group earlier with the court registry within one week, the court ruled. Ambani told the court that with the failure of its assets sale deal with elder brother Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio, his company has initiated insolvency proceedings and he is not in control of the funds.

RCom also told the court they had tried to move “heaven and earth” to ensure Ericsson gets its dues but was unable to do so due to failure of the assets sale deal. The apex court had given one last opportunity to RCom on October 23 last year for clearing the settlement amount and had asked it to clear dues by December 15, 2018, saying delayed payment would attract an interest of 12 per cent per annum. It was held that apart from Ambani, Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel boss Chhaya Virani had breached the undertaking given to the court.

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