Telecom minister Kapil 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, was evasive when asked on what basis Rs50 crore was decided as penalty
New Delhi: Rejecting charges of favouring Reliance Communications (RCom), telecom minister Kapil Sibal today insisted that the penalty of Rs5 crore imposed on it for interrupting services briefly was as per the agreement between USO Fund and the private operator, reports PTI.
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 Rs5 crore against the Rs650 crore as a favour.
Addressing a press conference here a day after the petition was filed, Mr Sibal questioned the basis for computing the penalty as Rs650 crore whereas the USO Fund itself had recommended a penalty of up to Rs50 crore only.
"I am deeply grieved by what is happening by the PIL filed by an NGO in the Supreme Court stating that the telecom minister has abused his power to reduce penalty on Reliance Telecom to Rs5 crore," the 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 21st December, a show-cause notice was issued to the company threatening imposition of 'lump sum' amount of Rs50 crore as penalty for the same.
"The notice for Rs50 crore was to pressurise the Reliance Telecom.... They got worried," Mr Sibal said, adding finally the services were restored on 16th February, this year and the company paid a penalty of Rs5.5 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 over-ruled 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".
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 Rs650 crore to Rs5 crore against Anil Ambani-headed RCom for violations in the UASL agreement.
The NGO alleged that a penalty of Rs50 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 unauthorised switching-off/closure of services to subscribers from USOF sites without any notice."
"The Rs5 crore penalty on the ADAG firm was as per the agreement between the USOF and Reliance Telecom. The Department of Telecom (DoT) was nothing to do with the penalty as the company had not violated the rules of license conditions," Mr Sibal said.
He said when the file reached him on 18th February, this year RCom had already restored the services two days prior to that. He said he gave instructions to impose penalty as per the provisions of the agreement and did not himself decide the amount of Rs5 crore as penalty.
He, however, was evasive when asked on what basis Rs50 crore was decided as penalty.
However, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee cautioned that in the event of a slowdown in economic growth, revenue collections may get impacted
New Delhi: Amid apprehensions of slowdown impacting tax collection, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday exuded confidence that the government would be able to meet the revenue targets set in the budget for 2011-12, reports PTI.
"The growth of revenues up to June is reasonably satisfactory. Therefore, I do not apprehend that there will be any slippage," Mr Mukherjee told reporters to a query related to revenue collections.
He was talking after meeting chief executive officers of public sector banks and other financial institutions.
The finance minister said government set targets assuming normal conditions.
However, he added, "There may be (slowdown in revenue collections) if there is a slow (economic) growth, if there are unprecedented happenings and events."
The Centre expects to collect over Rs9.32 lakh crore tax revenues this fiscal, about 24.98% up from the previous year.
However, there are apprehensions that revenue collection, both on direct and indirect fronts, could be impacted due to high global commodity prices and high inflation.
Net direct tax collections in the first quarter dropped by almost 17% to Rs57,268 crore year-on-year.
Besides, the government would be losing about Rs49,000 crore on account of cut in customs and excise duty on petroleum products.
In the Budget speech, Mr Mukherjee had pegged the economic growth for the current fiscal at around 9% but two-months later the RBI came out with a lower projection of about 8% gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
The central bank has hiked key policy rates 10 times since March 2010. The high interest rate regime has impacted the country's industrial growth rate, which shrunk by more than half to 6.3% in April.
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