The Supreme Court has ordered a stay on the sale of assets of Anil Ambani's RCom Consolidated to elder brother Mukesh's Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) in a bid to decide who should be refunded first out of the money raised from the deal. A bench of Justices AK Goel, RF Nariman and UU Lalit directed the parties to maintain status quo, agreeing to hear a plea filed by the State Bank of India (SBI), one of the creditor banks, meaning the deal cannot be finalised without the court's permission.
SBI had challenged a tribunal's order, which was upheld by the Bombay High Court, allowing Ericsson to stake a claim on RCom Consolidated's assets. RCom owes Indian lenders £4.20 billion. SBI said that as a secured lender, its claim took precedence over others. Apart from the bank, 24 other Indian lenders constitute the Joint Lenders Fora. They had initiated a sale through bidding for RCom Consolidated's assets. Reliance Jio had agreed to buy spectrum, cell towers and other infrastructure, including 1,78,000 km of fibre optics line, for £1.73 billion. Along with monetisation of secured assets, two properties of RCom Consolidated in Delhi and Chennai were proposed to be sold to third parties for £80 million.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for SBI, said value of the property was depleting with each passing day and the bidding process had to be completed by March 31. He said the SC must decide who should be given priority in getting money back. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who represented RCom, supported SBI's stand. He said secured creditors must be given preference and the issue had to be adjudicated to settle the controversy.