AAP demands Telecom Minister's dismissal
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) today demanded dismissal of Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleging a conflict of interest that has prevented him from issuing a notice to Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio on 4G issue, a charge vehemently denied by Prasad saying he never gave advice or appeared for the company.
New Dellhi: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) today demanded dismissal of Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleging a conflict of interest that has prevented him from issuing a notice to Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio on 4G issue, a charge vehemently denied by Prasad saying he never gave advice or appeared for the company.
AAP leader and advocate Prashant Bhushan also alleged that Manish Tewari, who was a Union Minister in the previous UPA government, had a retainership contract with Reliance Industries.
Tewari said he had surrendered his bar licence the day he was made a Union Minister in 2012 and had written to RIL terminating the relationship.
"Ravi Shankar Prasad is in receipt of retainership from FineTech Corporation Pvt Ltd, a Reliance group company from April 2013 to March 2014. Prasad, who is currently the Minister of Telecommunication, is sitting over a notice that needs to be issued to Reliance Jio with respect to the 4G case.
"Why is he sitting over this notice for the past three months and not allowing Department of Telecom's Access Service Division to issue notice to Reliance," Bhushan said.
Prasad, he alleged, had received Rs 84 lakh as retainer fee.
The Minister termed the allegations as "completely false and misleading" and said he had terminated all his professional relationship with Finetech in March, two months before he became a Minister.
"I am shocked and I condemn the sensational allegations made by Bhushan and AAP," he told PTI here.
"I have never given any advice or appeared for RIL," he said. "FineTech is a different corporate entity to whom legal services were rendered. Giving legal advice or retainership to companies is quite common with lawyers particularly with eminent lawyers."
"As regards allegation about Reliance 4G issue (is concerned), every decision will be taken purely objectively on merits and in light of final report of CAG," he added.
Bhushan said CAG had in its report stated that Infotel Broadband Services, which was acquired by RIL, was shown undue favours in award of pan-India broadband spectrum resulting in loss of more than Rs 20,000 crore to the exchequer.
DoT, he claimed, was to issue notice to Infotel, which was subsequently renamed Reliance Jio, but the minister was sitting over it.
Addressing a press conference, AAP leaders Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav released what they said were receipt of payments made to Prasad and Tewari and demanded sacking of the Telecom Minister saying it was a clear case of conflict of interest.
Prasad said he had made full disclosure of his professional engagements to Parliament and had "maintained very high standard and was never associated with any interest of his client or articulated their concerns in Parliament."
Tewari said that so far as the allegations pertaining to the JPC was concerned, he had declared his "professional relationships" and had even offered to recuse himself from the proceedings.
"I wrote to then chairperson of the Joint Parliamentary Committee P C Chako on March 21, 2011 submitting that I had represented telecom companies including Reliance Infocomm during the period covered by JPC investigation," he said.
AAP leaders said that before becoming the union minister, Prasad was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, which examined matters relating to allocation and pricing of telecom licences spectrum.
The advocate turned activist said Tewari too had a similar agreement - from October 2012 to May 2014 - with the RIL even during his tenure as the union minister for Information and Broadcasting.
"Isn't it a conflict of interest? Reliance has a controlling stake in several channels, which come directly under the I&B Ministry?" Bhushan said.
Batting for a strong law on conflict of interest, Yadav said such former minister and MPs have been in various committees in which are of interest to companies.
"They should not be doing any legal work while holding high offices. Also, they must recuse themselves from a public office, which deals with the business interest of companies," Yadav said.
AAP released a letter purportedly written by Tewari in January 2012 seeking renewal of his retainership with RIL for a further period of three years, which the Congress leader rebutted saying he had terminated the contract no sooner he became a minister later that year.