Is DOT Bound By Policy Decisions Of TRAI?

Department of Telecommunications (DOT) and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) have been locking horns upon many Telecom Related Policy Issues. Of course, on some issues like allowing telemarketing companies to operate freely in India, both DOT and TRAI are concurring. Till now neither DOT nor TRAI has tried to stop Spam Communications in India.

However, there is a “Central Issue” as well that has become bone of contention between DOT and TRAI. The controversy revolves around the role of TRAI in suggesting policy issues.

Although this issue has been agitated by DOT in the past and a favourable reply was given by Law Ministry of India in favour of DOT yet the issue kept on resurfacing again and again. In fact, Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium in his legal opinion had said that DOT can change the terms and conditions of existing licences and the TRAI’s recommendations were not binding on the Government.

However, TRAI got its own legal opinion in this regard from former Supreme Court Judge BP Jeevan Reddy and noted Lawyer Harish N Slave. Both were of the opinion that DOT cannot make any modifications to licences of existing mobile phone firms without consulting TRAI. Reddy and Salve had also said the DOT must review the opinion given by Gopal Subramanium.

Now DOT has decided to seek the opinion of Law Ministry once more. DOT would send both set of Opinions to Law Ministry and is expecting the Law Ministry to take a final call in this regard. In the interim period, it has also decided against acting on Gopal Subramanium’s opinion.

This is a crucial issue as it would have a very important bearing upon the telecom decisions taken by DOT. For the larger interest of Telecom Sector of India, it is advisable that Law Ministry of India must take a “well informed and highly deliberated decision” in this regard.