9 March 2019: More than half of the four-week respite given by the Supreme Court has passed. Reliance Communications (RCom) promoter Anil Ambani and his group are making their moves (including sale of group assets) to purge the contempt of court by paying up Rs 453 crore dues to Ericsson. But, to add to their troubles, more people have queued up before the Supreme Court under the contempt jurisdiction to claim their dues from RCom and its directors. Their petition is likely to be heard on Monday. As per the Supreme Court website, the case is tentatively listed for hearing on Monday, before the bench of Rohinton Nariman and Vineet Saran.
A group of minority investors of Reliance Infratel led by Mauritius-based HSBC Daisy Investments has moved the apex court against Ambani, other directors of RCom and some companies of the group. The special leave petition is likely to come up before the bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman which passed the order in the Ericsson case on February 20.
Apart from Ambani and RCom, the respondents to the contempt petition include RCom directors Deepak Shourie, Raj Narain Bharadwaj, Punit Garg, AK Purwar, Jayaraman Ramachandran, Manjari Ashok Kaker, Manikantan Vishwanathan, Ryna Karani, Chhaya Virani, Suresh Rangachar and company secretary Prakash Shenoy.
Like the dispute with Ericsson, a vendor of Rcom, the tussle with the minority investors of the tower arm – which include HSBC Daisy Investments, Drawbridge Towers, Galleon Special Opportunities Fund and Quantum – has for long dragged along across different fora including the National Company Law Tribunal, its appellate body and the Supreme Court itself. The investors’ claim of about Rs 230 crore has also gone through a couple of attempts to settle out of court, which failed.
As per the consent terms of the agreement between Reliance Infratel and HSBC Daisy and others, who together own a little over 4 per cent, recorded by the NCLAT in its order dated June 26, 2018, Reliance Infratel was to pay the amount in next six months.
“Appellants (Reliance Infratel) agree and undertake that they shall jointly and/or severally pay a sum of Rs 230 crore to the respondents in the proportion as set out in Annexure A hereto within a period of 180 days… ,” said the consent term recorded by NCLAT in June.
In a detailed article, ET Prime had explained the shrinking value of the towers business.
This settlement depended on a deal between RCom and Reliance Jio, the telecom giant floated by Ambani’s elder brother Mukesh, to buy certain assets including towers and spectrum. However, as the deal fell through, RCom failed to honour settlement agreements such as the ones with Ericsson and the minority investors.
On February 1, the company announced that it would seek debt resolution under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
The latest move by the minority investors to the Supreme Court comes after the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal in an order on February 25 posted the next hearing on the matter to March 27 citing “paucity of time.”
During the hearing on Ericssion matter, Ambani was present in the Court on February 11 and 12, along with Reliance Telecom Ltd. Chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel Ltd. Chairperson Chhaya Virani.
A controversy had come up after an order issued by the court on February 7 requiring personal appearance of Ambani was found to be tampered with.