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Trai may get penal powers on violation of licences

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The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is considering whether the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) can have the power to penalise telecom players for violation of licence conditions. Currently, this power is vested in DoT.

In a recent meeting, had decided to legally examine whether a few existing DoT functions could be passed on to through amendments under a new Act.

Some powers proposed by Trai fall under the domain of DoT, such as the imposition of a penalty for violating licence conditions. However, functions like ensuring quality of service are in Trai’s domain, and it has sought the power to impose penalties to perform this task effectively.

Under the proposed amendments to the Trai Act, put in place in 1997, the regulator has sought more powers to effectively exercise existing regulatory powers. It has also said some of its recommendatory functions be converted into regulatory powers.

The new proposals include penalties for contravention of directions, orders or regulations of the authority. Regulatory powers for facilitating competition and promoting efficiency in the operation of telecommunication services, inspection of equipment used in the network by service providers and assessment of their efficiency and efficient management of spectrum have also been sought. Currently, Trai has recommendatory powers for all these functions.

It has also proposed Trai may be empowered to regulate the salaries and allowances of its officers and staff.

DoT also feels a new chairperson for Trai should be appointed soon, and it would be appropriate to seek comments for the proposed amendments. Current chairman is scheduled to retire on May 15, and the government has started the process for selecting a new one.

The DoT has also asked Trai to give a detailed justification and perspective for the proposed amendments, on how these will enable the regulator to strengthen itself, considering its past experience.

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