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TRAI, Centre, and call drops

 This comes following the Supreme Court order last month that rejected the regulator's idea to levy financial penalties on operators for call drops. The apex court order last month had deemed TRAI’s attempt at penalising telecom operators as "ultra vires, arbitrary, unreasonable and non-transparent". 

According to an independent survey done by the regulator, incidents of call drops have increased in the Delhi/NCR area in the month of May. The study released on Wednesday showed that most telecom operators have failed to mitigate it. To the uninitiated, a call drop means a voice call which after being successfully established is interrupted before it is completed. This study only covered Delhi. Over the next 15 days, the regulator plans to release similar studies for 11 more cities. “It is not that in the past TRAI did not collect fines from the operators for not meeting the quality of service parameters, but it was never termed as a penalty,” according to The Indian Express.

 “It was called financial disincentive. Further, the operators paid the fines because Trai has the power to charge sheet them in a civil or criminal court for disobeying its directions. Any amendment to the Trai Act would require a parliamentary approval.” In an interesting side, the regulator has also launched an app which people can use to register complaints against telemarketers flooding them with unwanted calls and messages. The DND (do not call) Services app is currently available for phones functioning on Android, Windows, and Java operating systems. The same is being developed for Apple users too. 

     On the issue of call drops, the apex court’s decision has proven to be a body blow to consumer interests. In a scathing column, noted tech investor Mohandas Pai argued that the judgement seriously undermined the regulator. “Its judgement has weakened TRAI which after a long time tried to enforce licence conditions and protect consumers - the very reason for its creation by Parliament,” he wrote. “Orderly growth of the telecom sector cannot be promoted by letting telcos off the hook, cocking a snook at the regulator, ignoring consumer service, providing inconsistent service and making consumers pay for their recurring under-investment and lack of care.”

 TRAI, which is a statutory body created by an act of Parliament, was only responding to widespread consumer complaints when it decided to order telcos into paying compensation for call drops. In its bid to acquire greater powers to levy fines on errant telecom regulators, TRAI is banking on the Centre to pass an executive order that would overturn the apex court’s decision, along the lines of NEET. Last month, the Centre had passed an executive order that the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET)—the common entrance test for MBBS and dental courses—will not apply to the states for now.
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