In a big setback to Reliance Communication chairman Anil Ambani, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held him and two other directors of the company guilty of "contempt of court" and directed them to pay Rs 453 crore to Telecom equipment maker Ericsson within four months.
The apex court made it clear that if Anail Ambani and two other directors fail to pay the amount within the stipulated time, three months' jail term will follow for them.
The apex cour bench, comprising justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saharan, held Ambani and the two directors guility of contempt in connection with non-payment of Rs 550 crore dues their company owed to Swedish telecom giant Ericsson.
The Supreme Court told Reliance Telecom and Reliance Infratel to pay Rs 1 crore each in 4 weeks to apex court registry. The apex court also directed that Rs 180 crore already deposited by Reliance Group in apex court registry be disbursed to Ericsson.
From undertakings given by Reliance Group's top brass, it appears they have wilfully not paid the amount to Ericsson despite orders, the court said.
The Supreme Court also said that any unconditional apology given by Reliance needs to be rejected as they have breached the undertaking and order.
On Feb 13, a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran 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 failure of assets sale deal with Jio.
The contempt plea wasn filed against Ambani, Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth, Reliance Infratel chairperson Chhaya Virani and SBI chairman.
The court 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 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.
(With PTI inputs)