New Delhi: A department of telecommunications (DoT) panel looking into a proposal to provide enforcement powers to the nation’s telecom regulator has opposed the suggestion, according to DoT documents reviewed by Mint .
“It would be appropriate if Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) is entrusted with the tasks which involve study of issues in detail that require consultation with the stakeholders so that policy formulation is done by DoT after due deliberation and thought. Trai can also discharge functions related to inter-operator issues,” the note said. “It is better that the enforcement functions continue to be discharged by DoT.”
Instead, the DoT panel has suggested that the existing powers of the regulator be curtailed so that there is a clear separation between the agency enforcing the rules and the one helping in preparing the telecom policy.
Enforcement of rules should be done by the department as the telecom licence agreement is signed between DoT and the operators, said a senior DoT official, requesting anonymity.
The regulator has been demanding more powers since 2006 on the grounds that the move would bring in more transparency to the sector and enable a tighter regulatory regime. The proposal gained momentum after the 2010 Comptroller and Auditor General report that showed alleged irregularities in the allocation of spectrum and licences in January 2008. “How can Trai be called a regulator without having the powers to regulate?” a regulatory expert asked, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Currently, the Trai Act empowers the regulator to prosecute erring companies in the courts of metropolitan magistrates. In contrast, other regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Board of India and the Competition Commission of India, have the powers to levy penalties.
The DoT committee has also suggested that the responsibility of measuring quality of service and network parameters should be given back to DoT, while the regulator can set the overall standards, the note said.
Since DoT no longer provides telecom services, the task of measuring quality of service should be given to its telecom enforcement, resource and monitoring cell. The task was given to the telecom regulator as DoT was offering telecom services at the time of the introduction of the TRAI Act. Later, the telecom services operations of DoT were spun off into a separate company—Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.
“It is necessary to bring clarity in the matter so that the roles of government and Trai are distinctly defined,” the panel said in its recommendations. The decisions were part of a 20 December meeting of the panel, chaired by DoT additional secretary Rita Teaotia.