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NCLAT dismisses contempt plea against Anil Ambani, others

HSBC Daisy and others had moved a contempt plea in the appellate tribunal, alleging that Reliance Infratel had not paid up about Rs 230 crore as mandated by the NCLAT.

Last Updated: Jul 24, 2019, 08.54 AM IST
The counsel appearing for resolution professional said that as RCom was going through insolvency proceedings and was under the moratorium period under the IBC, it cannot pay money.
MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal has dismissed a contempt petition filed against Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani and other officials by minority shareholders of tower unit Reliance Infratel, including HSBC Daisy, alleging non-payment of settlement dues.

“We find no case is made out for initiation of contempt proceedings… Both the applications… are accordingly dismissed,” a two-member bench led by justice SJ Mukhopadhaya said.

HSBC Daisy and others had moved a contempt plea in the appellate tribunal, alleging that Reliance Infratel had not paid up about Rs 230 crore as mandated by the NCLAT under a pact to settle a dispute over unpaid dues.

Reliance Infratel and its parent Reliance Communications, weighed by debt of Rs 46,000 crore, are in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code in the National Company Law Tribunal.

The counsel for the resolution professional - Deloitte - argued previously before the NCLAT that the company could not pay the minority shareholders because it would violate the moratorium on payments during the insolvency proceedings.

A lawyer representing HSBC said the company and other minority shareholders of Reliance Infratel were yet to decide on appealing the NCLAT verdict.

This was the second contempt petition that Ambani faced over unpaid dues after one filed – and won – by Swedish telecom gear maker Ericsson against RCom in the Supreme Court. In this case, Ambani narrowly evaded a three-month jail term by paying the gear maker Rs 550 crore plus interest.

RCom’s lenders now plan to seek a refund of that amount from Ericsson, citing IBC rules under which financial lenders have preference over operational creditors such as Ericsson while apportioning any amount generated from the telco.

People familiar with the matter said Ericsson won’t be refunding the amount that it received from the bankrupt telco under the Supreme Court’s directions.

“There is no way a refund is possible because the payment was done as per the directions of the highest court of the country, in a contempt petition filed against Anil Ambani. If they still want to pursue, one may be forced to ask them to bear all the legal costs for pursuing a frivolous litigation,” said one person.

RCom is currently managed by Deloitte, which is trying to sell assets to repay lenders.

Ericsson declined to comment.

A legal battle between Ericsson and RCom’s lenders could delay the resolution. The dispute between Ericsson and RCom was settled after 18 months.

“Are the lenders and RP asking the SC to strike back its orders? This case will start at the insolvency court but will be a long-drawn one since it will go from the bankruptcy court to appellate tribunal and finally the SC,” said another person.

The RCom insolvency case will next be heard in the NCLT-Mumbai bench on August 27.
(Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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