Friday, January 21, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

TRAI advice ‘not binding’

NEW DELHI, Jan 20 (PTI) — The government today said it was not bound to the accept the recommendations of the reconstituted Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

“The government is not bound to accept the recommendations of TRAI. However, it will be mandatory on government’s part to seek TRAI recommendations,” the Minister for Information Technology Mr Pramod Mahajan, said clarifying the provisions of the new TRAI Ordinance that the government planned to promulgate shortly.

“I made a mistake while announcing the TRAI ordinance after the Cabinet meeting last night and I wish to issue this clarification,” he said while addressing the Internet Service Providers ISP 2000 summmit here.

He said TRAI would be reconstituted after the promulgation of ‘TRAI (Amendment) Ordinance 2000’ but the new body would not have its judicial powers, which would be transferred to a new Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal.

Explaining the rationale behind the proposed changes, he said the decision was intended to bring in transparency and end the confusion over the role of TRAI. “We are in a peculiar situation where the government is both a licenser as well as a licensee.”

“We want an independent regulator to bring in transparency in the telecom sector,” he added.

Explaining the role of the proposed appellate tribunal, Mr Mahajan said this would be functioning like a one-Judge High Court Bench.

“The Chief Justice of a high court or a Supreme Court judge will be made the chief of this new appellate tribunal so that its orders can be appealed against only in the Supreme Court.”

The selection of the three-member appellate tribunal chairman would be done on the advice of the Chief Justice of India, Mr Mahajan said.

The promulgation of this Ordinance is a step towards better interaction between various parties involved, including the licenser, the licensee, the service provider and ultimately the consumer, he said.

Mr Mahajan said the Ordinance was awaiting the President’s approval and the government would introduce it in the Budget session of Parliament.

The CPM on Thursday opposed the government’s decision to amend the TRAI Act by an Ordinance saying this was another “mindless act” in the series of such measures that constituted the telecom reforms in the country, a UNI report said.

The party Politburo in a statement said: “The proposed ordinance seeks to remove the high court’s jurisdiction with regard to licence terms and conditions and its powers to review TRAI’s recommendations. This has to be seen in the light of the Delhi High Court striking down TRAI’s order on calling party to pay scheme and asking the private operators to pass on the benefits to the subscribers, of the new revenue sharing regime. The government is seeking to reverse the judicial intervention made in favour of the subscribers and help the private cellular operators. It is instructive that the appeal against the change from the fixed licence fee regime to a revenue sharing one is also pending in the high court,” the Politburo said.

The other pernicious aspect of the proposed Ordinance is that it dissolves TRAI, a body set up under an Act of Parliament and reconstitute it under an executive fiat.

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