TRAI gets govt approval to act as civil court


12 Jan 2012
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TRAI gets govt approval to act as civil court

NEW DELHI: The apex decision-making body of the communications ministry has cleared the proposal to grant more powers to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and enable the watchdog to act like a civil court.

This puts TRAI on par with the Securities and Exchange Board of India and the Competition Commission of India and permits the telecom regulator to 'summon persons, examine them on oath, demand documents and evidence on affidavits and, in appropriate cases, call for expert assistance in conducting inquiries', officials aware of the development told ET.

ET had first reported last year that TRAI was set to get more powers to act as a civil court.

"The Telecom Commission has taken a broad decision that the regulator must be strengthened and must be empowered to discharge its duties," a top telecom department official said. Another communication ministry official said that Trai's new powers will be spelt out in the upcoming National Telecom Policy 2012. This official did not clarify if Trai will be permitted to penalise operators for 'non-compliance of the terms and conditions of their licence'.

Trai had been demanding additional powers since 2006, but its requests were spurned by former telecom ministers A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran.

This is the second major step by telecom minister Kapil Sibal to empower the regulator. Sibal had earlier cleared a long-pending demand by Trai that it be entrusted with the task of managing spectrum - the radio frequencies on which mobile communication signals travel. In December 2011, the telecom department Trai's demand that it be allowed to undertake periodic audits of all the airwaves held by mobile phone companies and other government agencies.

Trai had been arguing that transferring the spectrum mandate to it would ring in more transparency, allow it to carry out regular audits and ensure this scarce national resource is used optimally, but former telecoms minister A Raja had repeatedly side stepped the issue.

Spectrum has been at the centre of nearly all controversies that have hit the telecom sector over the last decade with the companies, Trai, DoT and armed forces challenging each others rights and jurisdictions for control of this resource.

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