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Fair criticism okay, unsubstantiated charges lower institution's esteem, says Trai Chief


Press Trust of India New Delhi
Outgoing Trai Chairman RS Sharma today said he takes telecom industry's 'fair criticism' in his stride but its levelling allegations of bias without any proof bothers him as it discredits and lowers the institution's esteem.
In an interview to PTI, Sharma talked about various industry related issues but chose to sidestep all queries around the high-drama that had unfolded over the weekend on the social media.
He is locked in a war of words with the critics of Aadhaar following his open dare to the Twitterati to prove that mere knowledge of the 12 digit number, his own, could be misused to harm him.
Over the weekend, they attempted hacking his email accounts, dug up his phone number, address, as also chat threads. They even claimed to have obtained his bank details.
The critics also claimed to have sent him Re 1 via Aadhaar Enabled payment system, which the Trai chief refuted in a tweet.
Sharma declined to comment on specific questions around his Aadhaar-related open challenge, and also whether he considered himself a "winner" in the dare.
On the industry's criticism on some of the decisions taken during his tenure, Sharma said he takes fair criticism in his stride.
His past decisions over Points of Interconnect, termination charges, permitting the inaugural free calls as also data by newcomer Reliance Jio, and the predatory pricing rules had come under the industry's scathing attack.
"It is not a good idea to level unsubstantiated charges about bias. Fair criticism is okay, but levelling allegations of bias, in an unsubstantiated manner, is not correct," said Sharma who completes his term as Trai Chief on August 9.
He said that any party which feels aggrieved by the regulator's decision, is free to seek legal recourse.
"...if any entity is aggrieved by decision or regulation of Trai, there are judicial forums available for appeal... So I think instead of levelling allegations and criticising and making it a publicity issue, the normal thing to do is to go to an appropriate legal forum...and, indeed, on many of the issues the concerned stakeholders have gone to court. The courts have also pronounced judgement on some of them," said Sharma.
Asked if the the criticism and allegations hurled against Trai bothered him, Sharma said it "certainly" did, given that unsubstantiated charges also seek to discredit an agency or institution.
"Certainly, it bothers... because if you level charges of bias without substantiating stuff (proof) then it is not fair. It bothers me because it discredits and lowers the esteem or credit of an institution...which is not fair," Sharma said.
He said the steadfast focus of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on consumers did not imply that it was working against the industry.
"Once we are working for consumers, it does not mean that we are working against the industry. We are working within the framework we are not overstretching (the mandate)," he said.
Earlier this month, industry body COAI had expressed displeasure with the incumbent telecom regulator head, and said it wants the new Trai chief to understand its authority and limitations, and create balance between industry and consumer welfare.
COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews had alleged that Trai chief regularly intervened in business with large number of consultation proposals and recommendations during his regime, for changes in existing norms.
In the past, Trai's decisions, ranging from slashing of call connect charges, to its stance on provision of points of internet (sought by Reliance Jio at the start of its services), and predatory pricing rules have not gone down well with the established operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular.
Earlier this year Trai's predatory pricing rules sparked off a furore as established players and COAI criticised the new norms. COAI had indicated that the order distorted the market, placing all operators, except one (it had not named Jio) at a serious disadvantage.

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First Published: Jul 31 2018 | 8:26 PM IST

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