SC to Ambani: Pay Rs 453 Cr in 4 weeks or face jail

SC to Ambani: Pay Rs 453 Cr in 4 weeks or face jail

SC gives Ambani four weeks to pay the sum or face a 3-month jail

The Supreme Court on Wednesday held RCom Chairman Anil Ambani as guilty of contempt of court for “wilful default” and “breach” of the undertaking given to pay Rs 550 Cr to Ericsson India Pvt Ltd. It said three Reliance companies showed “cavalier attitude” to the highest court of the land.


The court, however, said the Ambani and two chairmen of Reliance Telecom Ltd and Reliance Infratel Ltd could purge the contempt by paying remaining sum of Rs 453 Cr within four weeks or they would suffer three months imprisonment and one Cr fine each. The three companies had already paid Rs 118 Cr.


There is “no doubt whatsoever that the three Reliance Companies have willfully not paid the sum of Rs 550 Cr plus interest and have thus breached the undertakings given to this court,” a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran said.


The court also noted that it was clear that the three Reliance Companies had no intention, at the very least, of adhering to the time limit of 120 days or to the extended time limit of 60 days plus, given by way of indulgence on October 23, 2018. Ericsson had raised the demand for money for the operation, maintenance, and management of RCom’s network in terms of January 25, 2013 agreement.


Rejecting the "unconditional apology", the bench said they showed "cavalier" attitude by making "false" claim that they were disabled to pay the amount.


“We are of the view that any unconditional apology given that there was no intention to make any wrongful undertaking or that the undertaking was submitted bona fide must be rejected. It is clear that this reply affidavit clearly demonstrates the cavalier attitude of the deponent of this affidavit to the highest court of the land,” the bench said in its 41-page judgement on a contempt petition filed by Ericsson.


The court said their claim that undertaking to pay the amount was subject to sale of assets was "false to their knowledge". “This itself affects the administration of justice, and is, therefore, contempt of court,” the court said.


“To say that the sum of Rs 550 Cr would be paid only out of sale of assets of the three Reliance Companies is a deliberate misstatement made in the undertakings as well as the applications for extension of time filed before this court, which was done with the purpose of circumventing the orders of this court,” the bench said.


Anil Ambani, Reliance Telecom Ltd chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel Ltd chairperson Chhaya Virani, were present before the top court.


Besides Rs 453 Cr, the court also directed the three companies to pay one Cr each within four weeks which would be paid over to the SC Legal Services Committee.