Despite DoT support, no penal powers for Trai even after a decade

It’s been more than a decade that sectoral regulator Trai has been seeking penal powers but the despite fact that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has, in the past, prepared two draft notes for the Cabinet regarding the matter, the telecom watchdog is still waiting to be empowered.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) first time sought penal powers in 2007, when Nripendra Misra was the Chariman. At that time, the regulator had sent a comprehensive proposal for amendment of the Trai Act and thereafter, several correspondences were made with DoT seeking such provisions in the Act, which would allow it to regulate the sector in a much better way.

However, it isn't that DoT is not willing to amend the Trai Act. In fact, the department had prepared two draft notes for the Cabinet for the same but somehow, the amendments have not been made so far. Changing the Trai Act needs Parliament approval and it’s a complex process.

Trai had been established under the Trai Act 1997, to regulate telecom services and to protect the interest of service providers and consumers in the sector. The Authority has been conferred powers to issue directions, regulations and orders in the discharge of its regulatory functions, but does not have any power to take punitive action to secure compliance of the regulatory measures taken by it.

Current Trai chairman R S Sharma again wrote to DoT in June 2016 to make suitable amendments in the Act incorporating provisions for protection of interests of consumers and conferring penal powers to it. It’s been nearly two years and DoT secretary has held several meetings with Trai officers but no final decision has been taken in this regard. DoT, however, maintains that it is actively considering the proposal.

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