The Supreme Court on Monday refused to pass any order on the application filed against Communications Minister Kapil Sibal alleging that he arbitrarily reduced the penalty levied on Reliance Communications.
A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly, while saying “no order is required” on counsel Prashant Bhushan’s application, made it clear that the scope of the case before the court could not be enlarged to cover everything connected with 2G licence. However, the aggrieved persons could avail themselves of the remedy available in accordance with the law.
While senior counsel K.K. Venugopal and Additional Solicitor-General Harin Raval appeared for the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, senior counsel Rohinton Nariman appeared for Mr. Sibal, senior counsel Harish Salve appeared for Reliance Infocomm and ASG A.S. Chandihok appeared for the Centre, in the place of Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam.
In the new application, the Centre for Public Interest Litigation accused Mr. Sibal of favouring RCom by reducing the penalty from Rs. 650 crore to Rs. 5 crore for alleged violations of the Unified Access Service Licence (UASL) agreement.
Open to CBI probe
When Mr. Bhushan insisted that the CBI include this aspect also in its probe, Justice Ganguly said, “The Minister’s decision may be right or may be wrong. It is open to the CBI for investigation. We are not saying anything.”
When the Bench wanted to know from Mr. Nariman whether the matter referred to in the application was in anyway related to the 2G case, he said, “Not at all.”
Justice Singhvi told Mr. Bhushan: “If there is any irregularity allegedly connected whatsoever with telecom, it cannot be linked to the 2G. We cannot enlarge the scope of this petition. Persons aggrieved will be entitled to avail [themselves of] remedy in accordance with the law.”
His application alleged that Mr. Sibal “abused his position as Minister to overrule the unanimous view taken by senior DoT officials, including the Telecom Secretary, to benefit a private operator by closing the issue with only a penalty of Rs. 5 crore. This abuse of authority to benefit the Anil Ambani-controlled Reliance Infocomm needs a thorough investigation by the CBI.”
Refuting, Mr. Sibal said he did not favour anyone and that the penalty imposed was as per the agreement between the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) and RCom.
Earlier, Mr. Venugopal read out relevant portions of the ED’s status report that proceedings for attachment of property had begun against persons and companies already chargesheeted by the CBI in the 2G telecom spectrum allocation scam. “The attachment process will be completed within a month.”
He said that under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), attachment and confiscation would stand reversed if the accused were acquitted. “The money trail has led the ED to the United Kingdom, Singapore, Russia, Cyprus, Mauritius and the Isle of Man. Six complaints under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and the PMLA had been registered against some companies and their people who included the managing director of a telecom company, who is in jail.”
Mr. Venugopal said that in the Preliminary Enquiry against Sahara chief Subrata Roy, the CBI examined corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and some top officials of the TV channel on the allegation that they had interfered with the probe into the 2G spectrum case. The probe would be completed within a month.
The Bench posted this case for further hearing on August 4 and the one relating to the 2G scam to September after the filing of the third charge sheet by August-end. Hindu