'Reliance Has Money To Pay Rafale; But Not To Pay Our Debts', Ericsson Submits As SC Reserves Orders On Contempt Plea Against Anil Ambani

The Supreme Court bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran today reserved orders on the contempt petitions filed by Ericsson against the Chairman of Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom) Anil Ambani and other officials.

Ambani was present in Court today along with Reliance Telecom Ltd Chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel Ltd Chairperson Chhaya Virani.

The contempt petitions have been filed alleging that RCom violated the undertaking made before court to pay off debts due to Ericsson worth Rs 550 crores. The company has missed the two deadlines of September 30 and December 15, leading to the filing of two contempt petitions.

Dushyant Dave, senior counsel appearing for the Swedish company, advanced vehement submissions seeking contempt action against Anil Ambani. "They live like emperors, with all luxuries...but they have no intention to honour the commitment made before this Court. They have money to pay for Rafale....but cannot pay off our debts", Dave said fervently.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Ambani and officials, denied any contemptuous behaviour on the part of his clients. He said that the commitment was made by the company, and therefore individual liability cannot be fastened on the Chairman and officials. Also, the undertaking was not unconditional; it was conditional on the deal between RCom and Jio falling through. Since the deal could not be finalised due to objection by Department of Telecommunications, the condition in the undertaking was not fulfilled, said Rohatgi.

The Swedish gear-maker has alleged that RCom has "wilfully and consciously" defied the order dated August 3 of the top court and the undertaking given before it to pay up by September-end.

The apex court had on October 23 had given one last opportunity to RCom for clearing the settlement amount, by setting December 15 as the deadline. When this deadline was also missed, the SC issued contempt notice to Ambani on January 6. The bench was not prepared to accept the offer of part-settlement made by RCom for Rs. 118 crores.