Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) organised a seminar on “25 Years of TRAI Act: Way Forward for Stakeholders (Telecom, Broadcasting, IT, AERA and Aadhaar)” here today. The seminar was inaugurated by Shri Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Union Minister for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology and Railways, to commemorate the 25 years long journey of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act. In the year 1997, TRAI Act was enacted to regulate the telecommunications sector in India. It also provided for a mechanism of dispute resolution among the stakeholders of telecom sector. It was amended in 2000, establishing a Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to take over the adjudicatory and disputes functions from TRAI.
Shri Ashwini Vaishnaw congratulated the TDSAT for holding this seminar. The Unique character of Telecommunications sector, the Minister said, is because of the nature of spectrum which is indestructible and completely reusable. The other unique characters of the sector pointed out by Shri Ashwini Vaishnaw included its highly capital intensive nature, sensitivity to the technology changes and the strategic importance, which has become more relevant today as compared to the time when TRAI Act was formulated, 25 years back. He said that now the whole policy discourse is defined by Post- COVID scenario where the digital technology has become more significant.
Elucidating on the thought process with which the government is moving ahead in terms of policies and initiatives, the Minister said that ‘Antyodaya’ and inclusive development is the first and foremost philosophy behind the decisions and initiatives of our government and with this thought the government wants to narrow down the digital divide in the country. ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, he said, is the second dominant philosophy guiding the strategy and approach of government. 4G technology stack has been developed by Indian brains in record 14 months with fraction of costs compared to the other systems have been developed, he said. Further, the Minister highlighted the role of Indian institutions and scientists in development of 5-G core. Simultaneously we have started working on 6G technology so that we can take lead in 6 G and can set the direction for the whole world, he stated.
While concluding his remarks, Shri Vaishnaw, sought the suggestions from members of barsassociations, judiciary, industry, media etc. for making telecommunications sector as sunrise sector.
Ms. Justice Indira Banerjee, Judge of the Supreme Court, shared her experience of working in judiciary and the simultaneous growth in technology over a period of time. Speaking about the journey of TRAI and evolution of telecommunications sector in India, She said that National Telecom Policy, 1994, allowed entry of private entities in telecom sector and with entry of private sector, need was felt to have a regulator for this sector. This led to establishment of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in 1997 through enactment of TRAI Act. Initially, TRAI played the role of regulator as well as adjudicator. The TRAI Act was amended by an ordinance, effective from 24 January 2000, establishing a Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to take over the adjudicatory and disputes functions from TRAI.
Referring to the importance of regulation in telecommunication sector, Ms Justice Indira Banerjee said that regulatory measures are important considering the large scale of people using telecom and internet services. However, She said that the regulatory measures should not impede the growth of this sector.
Addressing the event Shri Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, Chairperson TDSAT and former Judge of Supreme Court of India, stated that TDSAT deals with matters in very important Sectors, many of them being regulated because of their sensitive nature. These sectors are bound to become more and more significant in the modern technological era. He said that TDSAT needs to avoid arrears beyond a year. That will have a favourable impact on the overall health and growth of all the concerned sectors which are very important for our Nation.
Talking about the need to increase strength of TDSAT, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, said that in spite of impressive figures of disposal, during pre-covid years, the number of filings as well as the pendency has kept on increasing. By end of 2019 the pendency was 2068. After the Covid pandemic, the pendency has now risen to 4019 cases. He said, “At least two more Benches are required. For that in addition to the Chairperson, the strength of Members / Judicial Members needs to be raised to five.” Number of ministerial and supporting staff also need to be increased suitably, he said.
Sharing his concern for the IT sector, Shri Shiva Kirti Singh said that unlike Telecom; it does not have the guidance, monitoring or regulation by a permanent expert body like TRAI. It is urgently needed. It would be in larger public interest to expand the regulatory areas of TRAI to all digital communications and IT or else to have another suitable expert body to take up the challenges relating to IT.
The objective of the seminar was to enhance awareness regarding regulatory mechanism, including dispute resolution, amongst stakeholders in Telecom, Broadcasting, IT, Airport Infrastructure and Aadhaar Sectors. The subject was deliberated by dignitaries from the Government, Judiciary, representatives of various stakeholders, Sector Regulators, eminent lawyers etc. It is expected that these discussions would throw light on key areas, emerging trends and challenges thrown by fast changing technology concerning the sectors.
At the event, Shri Vaishnaw also released the updated TDSAT Procedures 2005 and TDSAT Rules, 2003, along with Ms. Justice Indira Banerjee, Judge of the Supreme Court and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, Chairperson TDSAT and former Judge of Supreme Court of India. Mr. Justice Navin Chawla and Ms. Justice Prathiba M. Singh of Delhi High Court, Shri K. Rajaraman, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications as well as Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology as well as Chairman and Members of TRAI, Chairman and Members of AERA attended the event.