Almost six days after he rapped the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for allowing Reliance Jio to provide its promotional offer beyond the 90-day period and then subsequently allowing it come out with another promotional offer, telecom secretary JS Deepak has been transferred out of department of telecommunications with immediate effect. The order announcing his transfer came late on Wednesday evening after the appointments committee of the Cabinet approved that he with immediate effect take charge as an officer on special duty in the commerce ministry, followed by India’s ambassador/permanent representative to the World Trade Organisation with effect from June 1 till his superannuation in July 2018.
The Telecom Commission, the highest policy formulating body on telecom issues of which Deepak is the chairman, had on February 22 unanimously decided to convey to Trai its concern over allowing Jio’s promotional offer to continue beyond the stipulated 90-day period and then allow a subsequent promotional offer. It decided to advise the regulator to discharge its duties in proper letter and spirit so that government revenues are protected and for the sector’s orderly growth. A day later (on February 23), Deepak wrote to Trai chairman RS Sharma, conveying the TC’s decision, adding that if the the falling trend in industry revenue observed during Q2 and Q3 continues, it will impact the investment and repayment capacity of the industry.
Any impact on investment capacity has a cascading effect on revenues. In those circumstances, the possibility of defaulting on repayment of loan and instalment of deferred payment of acquisition of spectrum in earlier auctions could not be ruled out, he said in his letter.
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The agenda papers for the TC meeting were prepared on February 20. On February 21, Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani announced that from April 1 the company will start charging its customers. Deepak subsequently left for Barcelona to attend the Mobile World Congress, where he spoke about the government’s plan to hold spectrum auctions every year. On Wednesday evening, when his transfer was announced, he was still in Barcelona, from where he’s expected to return sometime on Thursday.
Deepak’s transfer is with immediate effect but since current representative to WTO Anjali Prasad’s term is till May end, he cannot take over before that. Hence he’s been asked to join the commerce ministry as an officer on special duty till May end. The OSD’s slot is of a director-level officer — to accommodate Deepak, it has temporarily been elevated to that of a secretary rank.
By immediate effect, it is meant that upon reaching India, Deepak needs to hand over charge and join his new assignment.