The Aam Aadmi Party Wednesday alleged that there was a conflict of interest in the law ministrys move to try and resolve the Rs 11,200 crore Vodafone tax dispute through conciliation as new Law Minister Kapil Sibals son Amit was the Hutch counsel in the case.
Amit Sibal denied the allegation and accused AAP of indulging in dirty politics.
The AAP allegation came after it was reported Wednesday that the law ministry,which had earlier rejected conciliation,had done a U-turn and agreed to it. Vodafone is facing a tax liability of Rs 11,200 crore for acquiring Hutchison Whampoas stake in its Indian telecom business in 2007.
AAP claimed that Sibal junior continues to defend Hutchison Telecommunications International Limiteds illegality before the Delhi High Court in a PIL matter that highlighted benami investment of HTIL in Hutchison Essar Limited. Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar had rejected Finance Minister P Chidambarams proposal for conciliation with Vodafone saying it was illegal. Attorney General G E Vahanvati too had advised against a compromise, the AAPs Arvind Kejriwal said. What has happened in the 24 hours since Sibal took charge as law minister for that opinion to be changed? It is a clear conflict of interest because his son represented Hutch in the case.
Amit Sibal described the allegations as malicious and false. The last time I appeared for Vodafone,one of the respondents,before the Delhi High Court was on November 12,2009. Prashant Bhushan is aware of this fact as he continues to appear for the petitioner. Their claim is wrong as ever since my father took over as Telecommunications Minister. I have not appeared for any telecom company. This I did to avoid any apparent conflict of interest. What these people are doing is indulging in dirty politics, he said.
A source close to Kapil Sibal echoed that view. They are making patently false allegations. When Mr Sibal took over as telecom minister in 2010,his children returned all telecom briefs they held at that time. And the Vodafone issue erupted two years later with the SC judgement. There is no question of conflict of interest, the source said.