Coming to the defence of Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the government on Friday insisted that the former Finance Minister had “no role anywhere” in the 2G spectrum allocation controversy and demands for his resignation were a “conspiracy” against him.
The government also justified the fact that minutes of a meeting between Mr. Chidambaram and the then Telecom Minister A.Raja had not been recorded, saying it was not required.
“The demand for Chidambaram’s resignation is a conspiracy. Chidambaram had no role anywhere. Whatever and whenever decisions he took, he did so after consultations,” Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters here.
He was responding when asked BJP’s contention that Mr. Chidambaram had a role in the 2G spectrum allocation and should resign.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who was also present, claimed that Mr. Chidambaram had never recommended to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that start—up spectrum should be treated as a ‘closed chapter” and there was some confusion regarding it.
“His comments were about additional spectrum charges,” he maintained.
On the minutes of meeting between Mr. Chidambaram and Mr. Raja not being recorded, Mr. Bansal argued, “the meeting was not such where the situation warranted preparation of any minutes…
The meeting was not required to record minutes.”
He said it was not a structured meeting like a Cabinet meeting or GOM where the minutes are prepared immediately after. “There are several occasions where two ministers meet even to discuss a specific issue but minutes are not made.”
No favours given to Reliance
Rejecting charges of favouring Reliance Communications, Mr. Sibal insisted that the penalty of Rs 5 crore imposed on it for interrupting services briefly was as per the agreement between USO Fund and the private operator.
He dismissed as “malicious, motivated and defamatory” the charges levelled against him by an NGO in a PIL filed in the Supreme Court that the company was imposed the penalty of Rs 5 crore against the Rs 650 crore as a favour.
Mr. Sibal questioned the basis for computing the penalty as Rs 650 crore whereas the USO Fund itself had recommended a penalty of up to Rs 50 crore only.
“I am deeply grieved by what is happening by the PIL filed by an NGO in the Supreme Court stating that Telecom Minister has abused his power to reduce penalty on Reliance Telecom to Rs 5 crore,” an agitated minister said, adding that PILs should not be “used to settle personal score“.
Giving details of the issue, he said Reliance Telecom services were switched off for “whatever reasons” in November 2010 and on December 21, a show cause notice was issued to the company threatening imposition of “lumpsum” amount of Rs 50 crore as penalty for the same.
“The notice for Rs 50 crore was to pressurise the Reliance Telecom…. They got worried,” Mr. Sibal said, adding finally the services were restored on February 16, this year and the company paid a penalty of Rs 5.5 crore.
He maintained that the penalty was calculated on the basis of duration of disruption of services (7-45 days) as provided in the agreement between USO Fund and RCom.
Mr. Sibal also termed as “unfortunate” the allegations that he had overruled officials of his ministry, saying the government could not function this way that a minister cannot take a decision because he would be labelled as “dishonest and wanting to favour private parties“.
‘PILs not for settling personal scores’
Mr. Sibal suggested that the PILs were being misused as they were meant only for serving public interest and “not to settle personal score”. He, however, did not elaborate even when asked whether he felt he was deliberately being targeted.
An application was filed in the Supreme Court by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) alleging that Mr. Sibal reduced the penalty from Rs 650 crore to Rs five crore against Anil Ambani-headed RCom for violations in the UASL agreement.
The NGO alleged that a penalty of Rs 50 crore per circle should have been imposed for “violation of the terms and conditions of Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) agreement and UASL agreement by voluntary, unilateral and unauthorized switching-off/closure of services to subscribers from USOF sites without any notice.” Hindu