The Supreme Court on Wednesday held Reliance Communications chairperson Anil Ambani and two directors in contempt of court on a petition filed by telecom major Ericsson India, ANI reported. Ericsson India had filed a contempt plea against Ambani for not clearing dues of Rs 550 crore.
Justices Rohinton Nariman and Vineet Saran held that three Reliance companies had had no intention of paying the money they owed Ericsson and that their conduct amounted to contempt. They also rejected Reliance Communications’ unconditional apology.
The top court ordered Reliance Communications to pay Rs 453 crore within four weeks to Ericsson, reported Bar and Bench. Ambani will have to undergo three months’ imprisonment if the company fails to pay, the court said.
The Supreme Court also asked for a fine of Rs 1 crore to be deposited with the court’s registry.
Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who represented Ambani in the case, said he respects the judgement, PTI reported. He expressed confidence that Reliance Communications will comply with the court’s order in paying dues to Ericcson within four weeks.
“We respect the Supreme Court’s order. We have faced our difficulties,” Rohatgi said. “However, the court ruled the way it has ruled.”
Last month, the top court had issued a notice to Ambani seeking a response to the contempt plea filed against the non-clearance of dues. In October, the court granted Reliance Communications time till December 15 to repay the money after the company sought a 60-day extension. The court failed to hear the case on Tuesday because of lack of time but instructed Ambani to be present in court again the following day.
Last week, the Supreme Court dismissed two court officers for tampering with an order passed by a bench in the contempt plea against Ambani.
Reliance shares fall
Shares of Reliance Group companies fell sharply after the Supreme Court’s verdict. Reliance Communications fell 6.67% on the BSE by noon to trade at Rs 5.60 per share. Reliance Infrastructure lost 8.75% by 11 am, but then recovered slightly to trade 4.66% down at noon. Reliance Capital was trading 6.93% below Tuesday’s close, after being 10.26% down at 11 pm.
Shares of Reliance Naval and Engineering and Reliance Home Finance also declined sharply on the National Stock Exchange, but seemed to be recovering some ground by noon.