Ambani, along with Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel chairperson Chhaya Virani, are also supposed to be present on Wednesday before a bench led by Justice R F Nariman, which had issued a contempt notice to the trio in January
Reliance Communications chairman Anil Ambani on Tuesday appeared before the Supreme Court in a contempt case by Swedish telecom equipment manufacturer Ericsson India over failure to pay outstanding dues of about Rs 550 crore. Ambani, along with Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel chairperson Chhaya Virani, are also supposed to be present on Wednesday before a bench led by Justice R F Nariman, which had issued a contempt notice to the trio in January. The apex court has posted the matter for further hearing on Wednesday.
Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi and Kapil Sibal, appearing for Ambani, argued that no contempt is made out against the trio. “We (RCom) tried our best to sell our assets to Reliance Jio, but the sale has fallen through. Attempt to save the company is gone. Now the company is under IBC,” Rohatgi said.
Ericsson India has filed three contempt applications seeking freezing and auctioning of personal assets of Ambani for ‘wilful and malicious disobedience’ of the Supreme Court’s orders that asked him to repay dues worth Rs 550 crore to the Swedish telecom equipment maker. Besides, the manufacturer wants that the RCom chairman be ‘detained in civil prison’ and restrained from travelling abroad unless the payment is made.
During the brief 15-minute hearing, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Ericsson, asked the bench to direct State Bank of India, the lead lender, to disclose how much money it had received from the sale of assets of RCom. Citing RCom’s couple of statutory filings, he alleged that RCom might have received Rs 5,000 crore after selling various assets of the company to Reliance Jio and banks have pocketed a large chunk of it. He also alleged that Reliance Communication is guilty of two contempts of court, as it had agreed before the top court on August 3 and October 23 that Rs 550 crore will be paid.
Dave also said that Ambani should be held guilty of perjury also as he had lied about not receiving Rs 5,000 crore. Ericsson, in its latest plea, filed last week said that Ambani, Seth and Virani have willfully and deliberately breached the undertakings of August 9 given to the SC and they should be restrained from leaving the country. It said that these three persons should declare their ‘total unencumbered assets directly or indirectly within India and abroad’ and their personal assets ‘may be frozen and sold for the recovery of its dues of Rs 550 crore.”
Ericsson also wants to restrain Ambani from dealing with his assets till he brings Rs 550 crore with interest at the rate of 12% per annum payable from September 30. Besides, the company wants a direction to all the alleged contemnors, including SBI, the lead bank of the joint lenders forum, to file an affidavit giving details of the amount received from sale of assets of the three companies and the current status certified by a chartered accountant post settlement dated May 30.
After RCom failed to pay for its supplies procured from Ericsson in 2014, the latter initiated insolvency proceedings against it before NCLT to recover Rs 1,150 crore. Subsequently, the two parties made an out-of-court settlement by which RCom was required to pay Rs 550 crore. RCom, had on February 1, said that it planned to move NCLT for fast tracking of its debt resolution plan, conceding that it had failed to complete its spectrum sale to Reliance Jio due to the telecom department’s refusal to clear it and the matter being dragged to various courts. “RCom board expects substantial unsustainable debt and liabilities to stand extinguished under the NCLT process,” it said.