Global telecom equipment maker Ericsson has filed a contempt of court petition against the chairman of the State Bank of India (SBI) in the Supreme Court in connection with the ongoing payment dispute with Reliance Communications (RCom).

The latest move further escalates its legal tangle with debt-laden RCom over non-payment of Rs 550 crore in service dues. Ericsson had moved the apex court earlier seeking detention of Reliance Communications Chairman Anil Ambani after RCom failed to settle the dues despite court orders.

The move to implicate SBI in the dispute and the filing of a third contempt of court petition against Anil Ambani came after RCom announced it was filing for bankruptcy last week, the Economic Times reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

In the latest plea, the Swedish company says Ambani's personal assets must be frozen and he shouldn't be allowed to leave the country. In the fresh plea Ericsson accuses SBI of not helping to retrieve the dues from RCom in its capacity as the lead banker during RCom's attempts to sell wireless assets to Reliance Jio. That deal would have fetched cash-strapped RCom about Rs 18,000 crore.

State Bank of India, SBI
A man stands outside a State Bank of India branch in Gurugram on May 31, 2018IANS

Ericsson had signed a seven-year deal in 2014 with RComm for operating and managing the Indian telecom player's nationwide telecoms network. RCom owes Ericsson the dues in unpaid service costs after the deeply leveraged and indebted RCom went out of business.

Of late Ericsson has sharpened the litigation process in a bid to retrieve the money. It has also filed contempt proceedings against the Department of Telecommunications, after RCom said DoT's delay in approving spectrum sale had partially led to the non-payment of service dues to Ericsson.

Stock crashes

RCom, in turn, accused the Swedish company of sensationalising the issue of dues recovery and setting off a media trial. "It is deeply regrettable that Ericsson India Private Limited (Ericsson), an operational unsecured creditor, is attempting a trial by media and sensationalising issues, as evidenced in recent media reports," RCom said in a statement early last month.

RCom last week filed for bankruptcy, hit by protracted delay in completing the sale of wireless assets to Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio. The proceeds from the sale, which was decided in late 2017, would have allowed RCom to pare its debt pile of more than Rs 42,000 crore.

Following the bankruptcy move, shares in the company came crashing down, falling as much as 50 percent at one point on Monday. On Tuesday, RCom shares closed nearly 28 percent down at Rs 5.44 on BSE.