Supreme Court holds Anil Ambani companies guilty of contempt

Supreme Court holds Anil Ambani companies guilty of contempt
Anil Ambani, Chairman of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, attends the annual general meeting of Reliance Communication in Mumbai September 4, 2012. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo
  • Pay within four weeks or go to jail for three months, India's apex court orders.
  • Three Anil Ambani-owned companies have to pay ₹4.5 billion to Ericsson.
  • SC has imposed an additional fine of ₹10 million on each company.

India's top court today held Anil Ambani and his company Reliance Communications guilty of contempt of court, Bar and Bench reported.

The order laid down a deadline of four weeks to make a payment of ₹4.53 billion , failing which Anil Ambani along with his fellow directors, Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel chairman Chhaya Virani, may face a jail term of upto three months. The three men have also each been hit with an individual fine of ₹10 million, which is also due in four weeks.

The judges slammed the defendants for their 'cavalier' attitude, adding that they did not accept the "unconditional apology" offered by Ambani and his fellow directors. Reliance Communication's advocate Mukul Rohatgi said he respects the decision of the Supreme Court and expressed confidence that the group would make good on the payment.

Shares of the companies fell by as much as 10% following the verdict, exacerbating last week's plunge.

Ambani was present in court for the order. Last week, the Supreme Court was forced to dismiss two registrars - whose job it is to upload orders on the SC website - for deliberately changing the wording in a document in order to prevent Ambani from making a personal appearance in court.

The Supreme Court had earlier directed Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications to pay ₹5.5 billion to Ericsson towards settlement of dues by mid-December 2018. It had already deposited ₹1.2 billion with the court, and will have to pay the remaining amount now.

Earlier this month, Reliance Communications commenced insolvency proceedings through the National Company Law Tribunal. The former telecom major has nearly ₹450 billion in debts.

In order to trim its debt burden, Ambani was hoping to secure a mammoth sale of spectrum assets to his brother Mukesh Ambani’s Jio. However, the deal was called off in December last year. As things stand, Reliance Communications is struggling to find buyers for its assets.


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