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Anil Kumar Lahoti Appointed as Chairperson of TRAI: A Glimpse into India’s Evolving Telecom Regulatory Landscape

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Telecom and Broadcasting Companies

The Government of India has appointed Mr. Anil Kumar Lahoti, the former Chairperson and CEO of the Railway Board, as the new Chairperson of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) through a notification issued by Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) dated January 29, 2024. Although the Gazette of India Notification is not yet in public domain, the appointment comes after Mr. P.D. Vaghela, the former TRAI chairman demitted office in September last year.

Mr. Lahoti, a civil engineer and a 1984 batch officer of the Indian Railway Service of Engineers (IRSE) has been in the Indian Railways for over 35 years. He will be the TRAI Chairperson for a period of 3 years or till attaining the age of 65, or until further orders, whichever is earlier.

The TRAI Act, 1997 was recently amended while the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950  were repealed with the notification of The Telecommunication Act, 2023 with effect from December 24, 2023.

TRAI is a regulatory body regulating Telecom Sector by regulating the Telecom Services and Tariffs for the growth of telecommunications in India and to protect the interest of service providers and consumers of the Telecom sector, which were earlier overseen by the Government of India. TRAI regularly adjudicates disputes and issues directions that are appealable before Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), chaired by Justice D.N. Patel.

The recent paradigm shift initiated by the Narendra Modi government involves the appointment of individuals outside the bureaucratic and IAS cadre to lead pivotal regulatory bodies. Traditionally, these roles were predominantly earmarked for post-retirement positions for bureaucrats. This transformation is evident in the appointment of Ms. Madhabi Puri Buch, the first female executive from the private sector, as the Chairperson of the SEBI. This position had been exclusively held by government officials for more than three decades since its inception.

However, the Ministry of Finance is yet to appoint the Presiding Officer of the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT). The SAT plays a crucial role in hearing appeals against orders issued by regulatory entities such as SEBIInsurance Regulatory and Development Authority of IndiaPension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA)NSE IndiaBSEIndia, MSEI, NSDL and CDSL. The delay or non-appointment of officers at regulatory tribunals, including SAT, raises concerns about potential disruptions. It is our hope that decision-makers acknowledge this issue and address it promptly to ensure the effective functioning of regulators and regulatory tribunals.

Readers are welcome to share their views with Regstreet Law Advisors on info@regstreetlaw.com

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