NEW DELHI, July 8 (IANS): Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal Friday denied any favours were granted to Reliance Communications on the quantum of penalty on service quality and expressed grief that frivolous litigations were being filed to settle personal scores.
His reference was to a civil appeal filed in the Supreme Court Thursday by the Centre of Public Interest Litigation that alleged that the penalty imposed on the company based on certain provisions related to service conditions was grossly inadequate.
"The allegations are false. The allegations are malicious," Sibal said in a hurriedly-convened press conference here. He, however, declined comment on whom he was referring to in his statement that the petition was trying to settle personal scores.
The minister said there was also no link whatsoever between the second generation (2G) telecom spectrum case which is being heard in the Supreme Court, and the imposition of penalty on some companies for closure of services in some areas.
"The government cannot function in this way. A minister cannot take a decision... If any decision you take is contrary to what is suggested by A, B and C, it becomes dishonest," he said. "People have built reputations over years. It is easy for you to destroy them."
He said after Reliance Communications stopped its services in some areas in November 2010, a notice was served Dec 21 under what is called the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) agreement, asking why a penalty of Rs.50 crore should not be imposed.
"By the time the file came to me on Feb 18, by that time on Feb 16, the services had been restored. The issue before me was what provisions to apply. So, I looked at the USO Fund and Reliance agreement," he said, adding the decision was taken accordingly.
"That's how the Rs.5 crore figure came up," said the minister on the quantum of penalty imposed. "Assuming that the services had not been restored, I would have gone by the parent agreement which is between the department of telecom and Reliance."
Sibal also said there was also no basis of estimating the penalty at Rs.650 crore, as suggested in the public interest litigation, which went by applying a penalty of Rs.50 crore for each of the 13 circles the company was operating in.
"The petition is defamatory since it attributes dishonesty to decision-making," he said and added that it was also malicious since the matter had no link with the 2G case, and motivated since some people were trying to settle personal scores.
While Sibal did not name anyone, there was an open war of words between representatives of the government and the civil society on the panel on the Lokpal bill, that respectively included Sibal and advocate Prashant Bhushan, also counsel for Thursday's petition.
"It is also surprising that as soon as the affidavit is filed in the Supreme Court, it is distributed to the media so that the media can take note of it and defame the minister concerned," Sibal said. "This is the worst form of forum shopping."