In a big setback for Anil Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Group was held guilty of contempt along with two directors for willfully not paying Rs. 550 crore to Ericsson. Anil Ambani and the two directors were saved from a jail term as the Supreme Court said that the contempt can be purged by discharging the dues along with the interest thereon.
The apex court asked RCom and Ambani to pay the dues to the Swedish networking and telecommunications MNC, Ericsson within a period of four weeks. One of the judges said, “RCom had no intention to abide with the undertakings… Undertakings were false to the knowledge of the RCom and group companies. This amounts to contempt of court.”
Apart from asking Anil Ambani and RCom to pay the dues within a period of four weeks, the Court also imposed a fine to the tune of Rs. 1 crore on three RCom entities. The fine will also have to be paid within four weeks in order to purge the contempt. Rejecting the unconditional apology tendered by Anil Ambani and RCom, the Supreme Court said, “Unconditional apology by Reliance can’t be accepted given the attitude of the deponent to the highest court of the land. Three Reliance companies had no intention of payment of money, it amounts to contempt.”
Earlier, the Reliance Group Chairman, Anil Ambani had told the Supreme Court that after the failure of its assets sale deal with his elder brother, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio, his company has entered insolvency proceedings. And it was not in control of the funds. RCom had reportedly submitted that it had tried to move “heaven and earth” but due to the failure of the assets-sale deal, it was unable to ensure that Ericsson gets its dues. However, the Supreme Court had said in the month of January this year that it was for RCom and Reliance Jio to sit together and resolve the issue over past dues. Justice Nariman had said, “Sit down and resolve this between yourselves, it is not for us. Till you don’t resolve between yourself, we can’t do anything.”
This case had come to light earlier as well when it was reported that senior Congress leader and Advocate, Kapil Sibal had appeared for Anil Ambani before the Supreme Court over the failure of Reliance Communications (RCom) to pay dues worth Rs. 550 crores to Ericsson. This had come at a time when the Congress president Rahul Gandhi had been relentlessly insinuating PM Modi of extending an illegitimate benefit to Anil Ambani in connection with the Rafale deal.