Anil Ambani guilty of contempt, told to pay fine

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The Supreme Court has held Anil Ambani's Reliance Communication guilty of contempt of court.

They ruled the billionaire will be jailed for three months if 4.5 billion rupees are not stumped up within four weeks.

A bench comprising of Justices RF Nariman and Vineet Saran said that if the contemnor failed to make the payments within the specified period, they they will undergo a jail term of three months.

The three Reliance Companies - RCom, Reliance Telecom and Reliance InfraTel- are also held guilty of contempt, and a fine of Rs 1 crore each has been imposed on them.

The Swedish gear-maker has alleged that Reliance group 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 Supreme Court had on 30 November cleared spectrum sale by RCom to elder brother Mukesh Ambani's Jio on condition that the seller furnishes ₹1,400 crore as corporate guarantee to the government within two days.

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Reliance Communications made a decision to shut down operations in 2017 while the entire telecom sector was stressed due to the entry of Reliance Jio, Mukesh Ambani's company.

The apex court on Wednesday rejected Ericsson's statement that all respondents in contempt petition were responsible in handing over Rs 550 crore worth of dues to Ericsson. In October, the court granted Reliance Communications time till December 15 to repay the money after the company sought a 60-day extension.

As the year ended, and with Ericsson ostensibly still not having received its dues, it filed a second contempt plea in January 2019, which led to today's judgement (February 20), holding Ambani and two other company directors in contempt.

On October 23 a year ago, the top court had asked RCom to clear the dues by December 15. The amount due to Ericsson has to be deposited with the registry of the Supreme Court.

Minutes after pronouncement of the verdict, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Ambani, said he respects the decision of the apex court and expressed confidence that the group will honour the directions on payment of dues to Ericsson. This still leaves a gap of Rs 177 crore - leaving aside the question for the moment on whether RCom will have to pay Rs 550 crore plus interest.

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