Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal has said said that the government is mulling taking away penalising powers, which are used to punish service providers for failing to comply with rules and regulations, from the Department of Telecom (DoT), and giving these to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

“… the excessive penalty that the department has been imposing on operators. I have been wanting to change their mindset but, unfortunately, it hasn't changed. Maybe the best way forward is to go give that power to TRAI,” Mr. Sibal said on sidelines of a Confederation of Indian Industry event here on Friday. While TRAI has the power to regulate and monitor rates, quality and other parameters of telecom and broadcasting services to protect consumer interest, it does not have the power to impose penalties on service providers for failing to adhere to rules. The minister added that it was a work-in-progress, and that the government was yet to take a final call .

According to industry estimates, telecom service providers are facing penalty to the tune of Rs. 6,500 crore. Of this, Rs. 1,900 crore has been imposed with regards to EMF (radiation) issues. Stating that sometimes there was lack of uniformity on the penalties levied, specially in cases of radiation, Telecom Secretary M F Farooqui said, “There is need to have some proportionality so that penalty levied in some way is related to seriousness of the violation of the licence condition and not seen by anyone as means to raise revenue.”

Aakash 4

The minister said specifications of the next version of low-cost tablet Aakash had been finalised, and was likely to be available by January 2014. “The generation 4 Aakash is ready, all the specifications are frozen,” Mr. Sibal added.

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