Nripendra Misra, former chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), had charged former telecom minister A Raja with cherry picking from his recommendations, instead of accepting them in their entirety.
Nripendra Misra, former chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), had charged former telecom minister A Raja with cherry picking from his recommendations, instead of accepting them in their entirety. Raja, however, maintained he had gone by Trai’s recommendations and had committed no irregularity in granting new licences in 2008. Misra had told FE in November 2010 that “the department of telecommunications (DoT) never sought Trai’s recommendations on the need and timing of granting new licences as required under the Trai Act”. Further, “it never made any reference to the regulator on fixing any cut-off date for accepting the applications”. Raja deviated from Trai’s recommendation on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), which later enabled companies such as Unitech Wireless (now Uninor) and Swan (now Etisalat) to sell substantial equity to Telenor and Etisalat, respectively. “The Trai recommendation was for banning the new licencees from any M&A for three years till when they were required to complete their roll out obligations. While the DoT disallowed merger it allowed acquisition thus de-linking the two and diluting the performance obligation on the new operators,” Misra had said.
Misra also said the DoT decided on a cut-off date of October 1, 2007, which was later advanced to September 25, for accepting applications. “Our recommendation was never sought on the matter, it was a unilateral decision of the DoT,” Misra had said. “While we did not recommend auction of spectrum we did say that the current market dynamism requires that the market price for licences be reassessed, which was ignored.” Misra had said there was a clear-cut provision in the Trai Act that the government needs to seek the recommendations of the Trai on the need and timing of granting new licences. “As early as 2006, I had written to the DoT highlighting this and kept on writing on the matter even after the licences were granted by the minister.
The final response from the DoT secretary came in July, 2008 stating that it is not incumbent on the government to seek Trai’s views and no further purpose would be served by engaging in any further discussions on the subject,” he said. “There was never any reference made to us on granting new licences, the reference was with regard to allowing dual technology, meaning whether companies providing CDMA services should also be given spectrum to provide GSM services. Here also even before it was officially announced that our recommendations have been accepted permission to one company was given,” Misra had said.