Supreme Court finds Anil Ambani guilty of contempt in Ericsson case

Supreme Court finds Anil Ambani guilty of contempt in Ericsson case

The highest court of India also found his two directors guilty for not clearing its dues of Rs 550 crore to the Swedish company.

RCom previously deposited more than 1 billion rupees with the court. One-month jail will be awarded, if the fine is not deposited within 30 days. The court added that if they failed to do so, a three-month jail term would follow.

The contempt petition was filed by Ericsson, contending that Reliance had committed gross contempt by disobeying orders of the Supreme Court, which had directed it to pay Rs. 550 crores to Ericsson towards settlement of dues.

"From undertakings given by Reliance Group's top brass, it appears they have wilfully not paid the amount to Ericsson despite orders and undertakings given", it said. "It is directed to corporate entity, which is the subject matter of the case", the court was told.

On May 30 past year, the apex court had perused the interim order of the NCLAT and noted that Ericsson India was willing to settle its debt of over Rs 1,500 crore for Rs 550 crore to be paid by RCom within 120 days. Last week, the Supreme Court was forced to dismiss two registrars - whose job it is to upload orders on the SC website - for deliberately changing the wording in a document in order to prevent Ambani from making a personal appearance in court. The Supreme Court then gave RCom another three months, and said the Anil Ambani-led firm had to pay by December 15, 2018.

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The dispute stemmed from an agreement between Ericsson and RCom in January 2013 whereby Ericsson agreed to provide RCom managed services like operation, maintenance, and management of RCom's network.

File image of Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani.

Ambani could not be made personally liable for the dues as RCom is a public listed company with lakhs of shareholders and an individual director or the entire group could not be held liable for liability of the company, Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for RCom, told the court.

The apex court had given one last opportunity to RCom on October 23 past 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. Things had however changed sometime in the middle of 2017 as it became evident that RCom was having trouble in repaying their debt.

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