“Within hours of taking charge, he has given the go-ahead to out-of-court conciliation”

Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday slammed Kapil Sibal for taking up the Vodafone tax case on his first day in the Union Law Ministry.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr. Kejriwal said: “Whatever wrongdoings the previous Law Minister Ashwani Kumar may have committed, he rejected Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s proposal for conciliation with Vodafone on its Rs. 11,217-crore income tax liability. But within hours of taking charge, Kapil Sibal has given the go-ahead to sort out the tax liability on Vodafone and Hutchison in an out-of-court conciliation.”

Alleging a “conflict of interest,” Mr. Kejriwal said Mr. Sibal’s son was a lawyer for Hutchison, which sold shares to Vodafone, and added that in 2009 Mr. Sibal said he would not like to be Law Minister as both his sons were lawyers.

Sources in the government, however, denied the charges and claimed Mr. Sibal’s son appeared for Vodafone till March 2009 and returned the briefs of all telecom companies when Mr. Sibal took over as Telecom Minister in 2010.

Mr. Kejriwal noted that even Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati, who said Vodafone must pay its dues, had changed his stance and advised that the matter be sent to the Cabinet and Parliament. “I want to know what is the methodology for crores of businessmen, traders and salaried taxpayers if they want a pact with Mr. Sibal to settle tax matters,” Mr. Kejriwal asked.

His colleague and lawyer Prashant Bhushan said Vodafone was facing tax liability of over Rs. 11,217 crore for its purchase of Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa’s stake in Essar in 2007.

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