SC adjourns hearing on Ericsson's contempt plea by a day, orders Ambani, others to be present

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday adjourned for tomorrow the hearing on a contempt plea filed by Ericsson India against Reliance Communication Ltd (RCom) Chairman Anil Dhirubhai Ambani and others for allegedly not clearing its dues of Rs 550 crore.

Ambani, Reliance Telecom Ltd Chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel Ltd Chairperson Chhaya Virani appeared before a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran in pursuance to the contempt notice issued against them.

The bench asked the three to be present in the court on Wednesday.

The apex court adjourned the matter to tomorrow due to paucity of time and assembling of a special bench in the post-lunch session.

During the previous hearing, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Ericsson India, had said that there was gross violation of apex court's two earlier orders and RCom had not paid any dues.

Ericsson had made it clear before the court that they would not accept Rs 118 crore that was being given by RCom and instead wanted their entire Rs 550 crore with interest.

Besides the contempt plea, Ericsson had also sought Ambani, Seth and Virani to be "detained in civil prison" unless they purge themselves by making the payment.

It had also sought directions to the Ministry of Home Affairs to prevent the three from leaving the country.

The apex court had given one last opportunity to RCom on October 23 last year for clearing the settlement amount and had asked it to clear dues by December 15, 2018 saying delayed payment would attract an interest of 12 per cent per annum.

It had said Ericsson can revive its contempt plea against Reliance if the amount is not paid by December 15, 2018.

In its first contempt plea, Ericsson had sought action against Ambani and others for failing to pay Rs 550 crore towards settlement to the company by September-end last year.

The company had alleged that RCom has "wilfully and consciously" defied the order dated August 3, 2018 of the top court and the undertaking given before it to pay up by September-end last year.

Ericsson India, which had signed a seven-year deal in 2014 to operate and manage RCom's nationwide telecom network, had alleged that it had not been paid the dues of over 1,500 crore and challenged the debt-ridden firm before National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

The top court had perused the May 30 last year interim order of the NCLAT and noted that Ericsson India was willing to settle its debt of over Rs 1,500 crore for a sum of Rs 550 crore which was to be paid by RCom within 120 days.

It had on August 3 last year allowed RCom to sell assets covering spectrum, fibre, telecom towers and certain real estate assets for an aggregate value of approximately Rs 25,000 crore.

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