NEW DELHI: In a major setback to industrialist Anil Ambani, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held him and two chairpersons of the group companies guilty of contempt of court for breaching undertakings to clear outstanding dues to Ericsson India.
A bench headed by Justice R F Nariman told the three Reliance firms — RCom, Reliance Telecom and Reliance InfraTel — to pay Rs 453 crore to Ericsson India within four weeks, failing which Ambani and two directors will be jailed for three months.
The Supreme Court also imposed a fine of Rs 1 crore each on the three companies and directed them to deposit it to the Supreme Court’s legal services authority within four weeks.
“In default of payment of such fine, the chairmen of these companies will suffer one month’s imprisonment,” the apex court added. Apart from Anil Ambani, the other chairpersons are Reliance Telecom’s Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel’s Chhaya Virani.
The bench said the company adopted a “cavalier attitude” towards the apex court’s orders to pay dues to the tune of Rs 550 crore to Ericsson India.
The court also directed that the amount of Rs 118 crore, already deposited by the Reliance group in the SC’s registry, be disbursed to Ericsson within one week.
The SC dismissed RCom’s apology for disobeying its directions and said the undertakings given by the three firms were false and affected the administration of justice.
The 41-page judgment said RCom wilfully did not pay the money it owed Ericsson and breached the undertaking given to the highest court of the country.
The SC also rejected RCom’s argument that Ericsson was to be paid from the funds it would receive from the sale of its assets to Reliance Jio, which eventually did not go as per plan.
Ericsson India had signed a 7-year deal with RCom in 2014 to manage and operate its network.
Last year, it moved SC against RCom over unpaid dues of Rs 550 crore.
It missed September 30 and December 15 deadlines, leading to the filing of two contempt petitions.