The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Thursday alleged “conflict of interest and gross impropriety” against Union telecommunications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and former information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari for taking “retainership fees” from the Reliance Group. Both Prasad and Tewari, however, rubbished the allegations of any impropriety.
Addressing a press conference here, senior AAP leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav alleged that Prasad took `84 lakh as retainership fee from a company affiliated to Reliance Industries, Finetech Corporation Private Ltd, between April 2013 and March 2014. Tewari, they alleged, was getting `5 lakh per month as consultancy fee from RIL from July 2010 to June 2012; it was then renewed for a period of three years.
The AAP leaders said that both Prasad and Tewari were then members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probing matters relating to allocation and pricing of telecommunication licenses and spectrum. Alleging “conflict of interest”, the AAP demanded resignation of Prasad as telecommunications minister.
“They shouldn’t 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 these companies (Reliance Group),” stated AAP.
Tewari hit back on Twitter posting a letter he had written to JPC chairman PC Chacko in March 2011 saying, “After 30 September, 2005, I have neither advised nor represented, or appeared in any court of law for any company or any entity connected with the telecom sector.” He clarified that he had terminated the legal relationship with RIL on November1, 2012 after taking charge as the I&B minister on October 29, 2012. “So the question of taking retainership fees doesn’t arise,” he told HT.
Terming the AAP allegation as “completely false and misleading”, Prasad said he has never given any advice or appeared for Reliance Industries. “Finetech Commercials Private Limited is a different corporate entity to whom legal services where rendered. Giving legal advice or retainer-ship to companies is quite common with lawyers particularly with eminent lawyers.”
However, before becoming a minister, I terminated all professional relationship. In fact with the Finetech Commercials it ended in March 2014 itself nearly two months before I became a minister in the Central government,” Prasad said in a statement.
RIL declined to comment.