New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to Reliance Communication Ltd (RCom) Chairman Anil Dhirubhai Ambani and others on a contempt petition filed by Ericsson India Pvt Ltd over non-payment of its dues. A bench headed by Justice R F Nariman sought a response from Ambani and others in four weeks.
Appearing for R Com, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Mukul Rohatgi asked the court to accept Rs 118 crore towards outstanding dues to Ericsson India to establish its bonafide. The counsel appearing for Ericsson, however, refused to accept the amount and said the entire outstanding sum of Rs 550 crore should be deposited.
The bench then directed R Com to deposit a demand draft of Rs 118 crore in the registry. 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, Reliance Telecom Ltd chairman Satish Seth and chairperson of Reliance Infratel Ltd Chhaya Virani from leaving the country.
The apex court had on October 23 last year asked RCom to clear the dues by December 15, saying delayed payment would attract an interest of 12 per cent per annum. The plea 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.
The apex court had on October 23 had given one last opportunity to RCom for clearing the settlement amount. It had said Ericsson can revive its contempt plea against Reliance if the amount is not paid by December 15, 2018.
In its first contempt plea, Ericsson had sought action against Ambani and others for failing to pay Rs 550 crore towards settlement to the company by September-end last year. The company had alleged that RCom has “wilfully and consciously” defied the order dated August 3 of the top court and the undertaking given before it to pay up by September-end.
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 the May 30 last year 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.