SC modifies order in case against RCom chief

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The Supreme Court has revised its January 7 order in a contempt petition filed by Ericsson India against Reliance Communication Ltd. (RCom) chairman Anil Dhirubhai Ambani to clarify that “personal appearance of the alleged contemnor(s) is not dispensed with” in the next hearing scheduled five weeks later.

The earlier version of the order had read “personal appearance of the alleged contemnor(s) is not dispensed with.” On January 7, a Bench of Justice Rohinton F. Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran had asked Mr. Ambani and other respondents to file a reply in four weeks.

Senior counsels for the company Kapil Sibal and Mukul Rohatgi offered ₹118 crore by way of demand drafts towards outstanding dues in a show of bonafide, which Ericsson refused. The court, however, ordered the demand drafts be deposited with the court registrar in three weeks.

Ericsson has sought Mr. Ambani and others to be “detained in civil prison” unless they repaid the dues.

It sought directions to the Ministry of Home Affairs to prevent Ambani, Reliance Telecom Ltd chairman Satish Seth and chairperson of Reliance Infratel Ltd Chhaya Virani from leaving the country.

This is the second round of contempt proceedings in the case. Earlier hearings in the court last year were based on a contempt petition filed by Ericsson against Mr. Ambani and two top executives for failure to pay ₹550 crore as ordered by the apex court on August 3.

Ericsson, represented by advocate Bhargava V. Desai, had then asked the court to restrain Mr.Ambani, Mr.Seth and Ms. Virani from leaving the country once contempt proceedings started. The petition had urged the apex court to direct the Government of India, through the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, to “issue directions to prevent any of them from leaving”.

Finally, the apex court had on October 23 given one last opportunity to RCom for clearing the settlement amount. It had said Ericsson could revive its first contempt plea against Reliance if the amount was not paid by December 15, 2018.

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