Trouble mounted once again for RCom (Reliance Communications) when Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson asked the Supreme Court to bar Anil Ambani and two senior executives from leaving India in a contempt of court plea, after the telco defaulted on payment of Rs 550 crore in dues, people with the knowledge of the development said.
Anil Ambani’s RCom called the plea “unwarranted” and said the company has already requested the top court for extending the payment deadline by 60 days. Further, RCom also got a big relief with a tribunal effectively paving way for the sale of its assets to raise funds and pay dues.
RCom had reached a settlement with its unsecured lender Ericsson for payment of Rs 550 crore against the dues of Rs 1,500 crore by September 30 from its spectrum sale to elder brother Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Infocomm. However, the payment was not made.
RCom said in a statement to stock exchanges that it had approached the apex court on September 27, three days before the deadline, for a 60-day extension as the spectrum sale hit a roadblock due to factors “beyond” its “control”, referring to the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) pre-condition of making bank guarantee of Rs 2,900 crore.
Meanwhile, the company also got a big relief on Wednesday when Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) stayed DoT’s demand, clearing the way for the spectrum sale, proceeds from which will help repay dues to Ericsson India and RITL minority investors.
Even as RCom requested an extension of the deadline, Ericsson was not in favour in of the demand. The company moved top court on Monday, a day after the deadline, with a contempt of court plea against the company. The contempt plea was filed two days before the TDSAT order clearing the way for spectrum sale.
Ericsson argued in the plea that Anil Ambani and other executives should be prevented from leaving the country, accusing them of “wilfully defaulting” on payment of dues and not complying with the due process of the law, people with knowledge of the development told FE Online.
Although, legally, it seems unlikely for the Supreme Court to bar Anil Ambani and other executives on the plea filed by Ericsson as it is not a case of financial fraud or misappropriation of funds, a lawyer, not involved in the case, told FE Online.
“It is highly unlikely that the Hon’ble Supreme Court will act on such a request as this is a case of default in making a payment for which Mr Ambani gave a personal guarantee, it is not a case of fraud or misappropriation of funds as was the case in certain recent cases,” Rajat Prakash, Managing Partner, Athena Legal told FE Online.
“Even if the Hon’ble Supreme Court decides to act on such a plea then, in my opinion, it would still allow travel with certain restrictions at best,” he added. The Supreme Court may take up both pleas — deadline extension plea by RCom and contempt of court plea by Ericsson — on Thursday.
Last year, RCom, which has a debt of Rs 45,000 crore, signed a pact with Reliance Jio for sale of wireless spectrum, tower, fibre and media convergence nodes assets. So far, the company has completed the sale of optical fibre assets worth Rs 3,000 crore and sale of its media convergence nodes worth Rs 2,000 crore, news agency PTI reported.