The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, held three Reliance Companies, (Reliance Communications Ltd., Reliance Telecom Ltd. and Reliance Infratel Ltd.) guilty of contempt of court for defaulting payments to Ericsson as per the undertaking given to the Court.
The bench comprising Justice RF Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran took serious view about statements made in the affidavit filed by RCom Chairman Anil Dhirubhai Ambani.
The affidavit stated that R-com has not taken or received any advantage on account of the undertaking submitted before the Court. Terming this as a wholly incorrect statement, the bench said that, a writ petition was filed in Supreme Court seeking quashing of the corporate insolvency resolution process on settlement of the matter with Ericsson, which could not be achieved without such undertaking. The bench said:
“We are of the view that any unconditional apology given that there was no intention to make any wrongful undertaking or that the undertaking was submitted bona fide must be rejected. It is clear that this reply affidavit clearly demonstrates the cavalier attitude of the deponent of this affidavit to the highest court of the land.”
The court also observed that the three Reliance Companies have willfully not paid the sum of INR 550 crore plus interest and have thus breached the undertakings given to the Court.
The undertakings given on the footing that the amount of INR 550 crore would be paid only out of the sale of assets was false to the knowledge of the three Reliance Companies. This itself affects the administration of justice, and is therefore, contempt of court. What is of greater relevance is the fact that, despite the Reliance Companies’ continuous protestations to the contrary, the letter dated 21.01.2019 from the advocate for the three Reliance Companies made it clear that the entire payment would be made by 31.01.2019, albeit on fulfilment of two conditions.”, the bench said referring to a letter by Reliance’s Advocate.
The court finally disposed of the contempt petition by the following order:
“Given the facts as aforesaid, we are of the view that the contempt of this Court needs to be purged by payment of the sum of INR 550 crore together with interest till date. As stated by the letter dated 21.01.2019, subject to any calculation error, an amount of INR 453 crore must be paid to Ericsson in addition to the deposit of INR 118 crore made in the Registry of this Court. The Registry of this Court is directed to pay over the sum of INR 118 crore to Ericsson within a period of one week from today. The RCom group is directed to purge the contempt of this Court by payment to Ericsson of the sum of INR 453 crore within a period of four weeks from today. In default of such payment, the Chairmen who have given undertakings to this Court will suffer three months’ imprisonment. In addition to the aforesaid sum being paid, a fine amounting to INR 1 crore for each Company must also be paid to the Registry of this Court within four weeks from today. This sum will be paid over to the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee. In default of payment of such fine, the Chairmen of these Companies will suffer one month’s imprisonment.”