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Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

  • 12 Aug 2021
  • 8 min read

Introduction

  • Legal Backing: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was established on 20th February, 1997 by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.
  • Objectives of TRAI:
    • TRAI's mission is to create and nurture conditions for growth of telecommunications in the country.
    • TRAI regulates telecom services including fixation/revision of tariffs for telecom services which were earlier vested in the Central Government.
    • It also aims to provide a fair and transparent policy environment which promotes a level playing field and facilitates fair competition.
  • Headquarters: The head office of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is located at New Delhi.

Composition of TRAI

  • Members: The TRAI consists of a Chairperson, two whole-time members and two part-time members, all of which are appointed by the Government of India.
  • Tenure of Members: The Chairperson and other members shall hold their office for a term of three years or till the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • Chairperson: The Chairperson has the powers of general superintendence.
    • He/She presides over the meetings of the TRAI.
  • Vice-Chairperson: The Central Government may appoint one of the members of the Authority as the Vice-Chairperson of TRAI.
    • The vice-chairperson exercises and discharges the powers and functions of the Chairperson in his/her absence.
  • Removal of Members: The Central Government is empowered to remove any member of the TRAI, if he/she:
    • has been adjudged an insolvent
    • has been convicted of an offence which involves moral turpitude
    • has become physically or mentally incapable of acting as a member
    • has abused his/her position; rendering his/her continuance in office prejudicial to the public interest.
  • TRAI Meetings:
    • The Chairperson has the power of organising the meetings at times. He/She presides over the meetings.
    • In the absence of the chairperson, the vice-chairperson presides over the meetings.
    • In the absence of a vice-chairperson, any member can be chosen from the authority to preside over the meeting.
    • The decisions in the meetings are taken by the majority vote of the members present.
      • In the event of an equality of votes, the Chairperson (or the member presiding the meeting) gives a second or casting vote.

Functions of TRAI

  • Makes Recommendations: The function of the TRAI is to make recommendations on the following matters:
    • Need for introduction of new service provider.
    • Revocation of license for non-compliance of terms and conditions of licence.
    • Measures to facilitate competition and promote efficiency in the operation of telecommunication services to facilitate their growth.
    • Technological improvements in the services provided by the service providers.
  • Discharge of Responsibilities: The TRAI is responsible for discharging the following functions:
    • Ensuring the compliance of terms and conditions of licence.
    • Ensuring the technical compatibility and effective interconnection between different service providers.
    • Laying down the standards of quality of service to be provided by the service providers.
    • Ensuring the quality of service and conducting the periodical surveys of such services.
    • Timely and officially notifying the rates at which the telecommunication services within India and outside India shall be provided under the TRAI Act, 1997.
  • Non-Binding Recommendations: The recommendations of the TRAI are not binding upon the Central Government.
    • If the Central Government does not accept any recommendation of the TRAI or needs modifications, it refers the recommendation back to the Authority for its reconsideration.
    • The TRAI forwards to the Central Government its recommendation after considering the reference made by that Government within 15 days.

Powers of TRAI

  • Order for Furnishing Information: It can call upon any service provider to furnish in writing the information or explanation relating to its affairs as the Authority may require.
  • Appointments for Inquiry: The Authority may appoint one or more persons to make an inquiry in relation to the affairs of any service provider.
  • Order for Inspection: It is empowered to direct any of its officers or employees to inspect the books of accounts or other documents of any service provider.
  • Issue Directions to Service Providers: The Authority shall have the power to issue such directions to service providers as it may consider necessary for proper functioning by service providers.

Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal

  • Amendment in the TRAI Act, 1997: The TRAI Act was amended in 2000 which established a Telecommunications Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to take over the adjudicatory and disputes functions from TRAI.
  • Objectives: TDSAT was set up to adjudicate any dispute between:
    • A licensor and a licensee
    • Two or more service providers
    • A service provider and a group of consumers
    • It was also established to hear and dispose of appeals against any direction, decision or order of TRAI.
  • Composition: The TDSAT consists of a Chairperson and two other members, all to be appointed by the Central Government.
  • Eligibility:
    • Chairperson: A person shall not be qualified for appointment as the Chairperson unless he/she is or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice of a High Court.
    • Other Members: He/She must have held the post of Secretary to the Government of India or any equivalent post in the Central/State Government.
  • Term of office: The Chairperson and the other members of TDSAT shall hold office for a term of maximum three years or seventy years (for Chairperson), whichever is earlier.
    • In the case of members other than the Chairperson, the maximum age is sixty-five years.
  • Removal of Members: The conditions for removal of any member of the Tribunal are the same as those of the TRAI.
  • Jurisdiction of TDSAT: The civil courts do not have jurisdiction to entertain any matter which the TDSAT is empowered to determine.
    • An order passed by TDSAT is executable as a decree of civil court; the Tribunal has all the powers of a civil court.
    • It is not bound by the procedure laid down by the Code of Civil Procedure but guided by the principles of natural justice.
      • The Tribunal has the powers to regulate its own procedure.
  • Penalties: The penalties for the offences that come under the jurisdiction of TDSAT, are the same as those of TRAI.
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