The Telephone Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has asked the government to amend law and allow it to impose penalty up to Rs 10 crore on mobile operators and jail term of up to two years on their executives for any violation of regulatory framework.
This follows a Supreme Court judgment quashing the TRAI order that asked telecom operators to compensate subscribers for call drops. The regulator has suggested to the Department of Telecom amendments in various provisions in the TRAI Act, 1997, with a view to be an 'effective sector regulator'.
"...if a service provider violates any direction, order or regulations made under this Act or terms and condition of license, service provider to be liable for penalty which may extend to 10 crore rupees," TRAI said in its communication to the Department of Telecom (DoT).
TRAI had put in place a new set of rules mandating telecom operators to pay Re 1 for each dropped call, subject to maximum Rs 3 per day, but the order was quashed by the apex court after companies appealed against it. The regulator said that after a detailed examination of the judgment it has concluded the need for seeking greater clarity in protecting interest of consumers, grievance redressal and enforcement of its regulations and orders.
"In order to be an effective sector regulator TRAI needs to be statutorily empowered to enforce its direction, orders, regulations as well as terms and conditions of license issued to service providers through imposition of penalties for contravention of such regulations directions etc," TRAI said.
The regulator has proposed amendment in Section 29 of the TRAI Act 1997 which is about penalty for contravention of its direction and also sought introduction of three new sub-sections 29 A, 29 B and 29 C. TRAI wants the amended section 29 to have provision for imprisonment and fine both for violators.
"Section 29 may be substituted with... If a person violates direction of the authority, such personnel shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may be extended to two years and shall be liable to fine which may be extended to Rs 15 lakh," TRAI said.
In case the violation continues there should be provision of additional fine that can be extended to Rs 15 lakh for every day till the time default continues, it said. At present, TRAI can impose fine of up to Rs 2 lakh for a violation and in case default continues penalty of Rs 2 lakh can be imposed till the time of breach of rules.
At present, disputes between consumers and telecom operators are not taken up by consumer courts as a Supreme Court judgment of 2009 had barred seeking any such relief under the Consumer Protection Act, saying a special remedy is provided under the Indian Telegraph Act.