In a major setback for the Indian businessman, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held Reliance Communication chairman Anil Ambani and two directors guilty of contempt of court on a contempt plea filed by Ericsson India against him over not clearing its dues of Rs 550 crore.
Calling it “willful disobedience” of its order, the court said, “Anil Ambani and others breached their undertaking”.
The court had on October 23 asked RCom to clear the dues by December 15, 2018, saying delayed payment would attract an interest of 12 per cent per annum.
The court ordered businessman Mukesh Ambani’s brother Anil and two other accused directors to pay Rs 453 crore to Ericsson India within 4 weeks, failing of which would call a three-month jail term.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 1 crore each on them as a penalty to be paid to the Supreme Court Registry, adding that if not deposited within a month, a one-month jail would be awarded to them.
The other two directors are Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel chairperson Chhaya Virani.
Telecom equipment maker Ericsson had filed three contempt applications against Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani and others for not clearing its dues.
A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran on February 13 reserved its judgement when Ericsson India had alleged that the Reliance Group has money to invest in the Rafale jet deal but they were unable to clear its Rs 550-crore dues, a charge which was vehemently denied by the Anil Ambani-led company.
Ambani told the top court that with the failure of its assets sale deal with elder brother Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio, his company has entered insolvency proceedings and is not in control of the funds.
Reliance Communications (RCom) had told the court they had tried to move “heaven and earth” to ensure Ericsson gets its due but was unable to do so due to a failure of assets sale deal with Jio.
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.