Thursday, January 20, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

TRAI to be disbanded

NEW DELHI, Jan 19 (PTI, UNI) — The government tonight decided to disband the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and appoint a new body in its place, and divest it of judicial powers by setting up a telecom dispute settlement and appellate tribunal.

The new panel will be set up by March and the government will soon issue an ordinance regarding the “TRAI amendment 2000”, Information Technology Minister Pramod Mahajan told reporters after a three-hour-long Cabinet meeting.

The Cabinet decision comes in the wake of month-long wranglings between TRAI and the telecom department with the former seeking adjudicatory powers to settle disputes between licencer and licencees.

The government decision is a sequel to a recommendation made by a high-powered committee on information technology headed by Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha which had suggested ways to strengthen TRAI.

The committee had also appointed a special committee headed by Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley on December 23 and the recommendations of its report submitted on January 13 were considered.

Explaining the salient features of the ordinance, Mr Mahajan said the recommendations of TRAI in respect of licences would be mandatory to the Government of India also.

The TRAI recommendations could cover additional issues, he said adding that they could fix terms and conditions of inter-connectivity between service providers in which the private sector had come in large numbers.

The recommendations of the TRAI would be mandatory.

The Ordinance also consisted recommendations for further technical improvement by laying down service quality standards and terms and conditions of licences of service providers.

On the setting up of a separate telecom dispute settlement and appellate tribunal, Mr Mahajan said: “This will be a totally separate body” and would have the power of adjucating disputes between parties and disposal of cases of service providers.

The appeal against the decisions of the tribunal would lie only in the Supreme Court instead of the high court, he said.

The tribunal would consist of a chairman and two members. The chairman would be a person who had been either a Supreme Court judge or a high court chief justice whose terms would be decided in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.

The new TRAI would have two permanent members and two part-time members for a three-year term and its chairman need not be of the level of a Supreme Court judge. While the age of the members should not exceed 65 years, that of the chairman should not exceed 70 years.

After coming into force of the ordinance, the members of current TRAI will have to vacate their offices and would be entitled to claim not exceeding three months of pay and allowance for their premature termination of services, he said adding that they could be considered for appointment to the new TRAI.

The Cabinet meanwhile cleared the proposal for the formation of an infotech joint venture company “sankhya vahini India limited,” with an authorised capital of Rs 1,000 crores, with active participation from the Department of Telecommunication Services.

The company would established a nation-wide data network and provide high standard data network to educational institutions and facilitate research on all kind of multi-media activities.

The Cabinet also cleared a protocol amending the agreement between India and the Swiss Confederation for avoidance of double taxation.

The Cabinet allowed sale tax-free aviation turbine fuel to all small turbo prop aircraft.

This has been done to help connect small airports to the hinterland of the country.

Mr Mahajan said he was hopeful that with this, various airlines, including Indian Airlines would be interested to buy turbo prop aircraft.

He said so far for the aviation turbine fuel (ATF), the charge was much higher than international prices. International companies got AFT at cheaper rates than domestic companies.

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