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Logo: Courtesy TRAI
 
The Narendra Modi Government is showing symptoms of short sightedness. A case in point is the proposal to introduce Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill 2014 in Parliament during the budget session.
The amended law would replace the ordinance promulgated on 28th May to facilitate appointment of ex-TRAI chief Nripendra Mishra as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.
Drafted by Department of Telecommunications, the Bill seeks to bring parity between TRAI and other regulators in different sectors of economy regarding conditions relating to reemployment of chairmen and whole-time members of all regulatory authorities.  
The parity is to be achieved by amending Section 5(8) of the TRAI Act, 1997 that prohibits reemployment of ex-chairman and members by the Central and State Government. The proposed amendment would enable such persons to become eligible for re-employment by the Government after two years from the date of retirement as is provided by specific laws on other regulators such as Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India Act, 1999. 
According to an official source, “no separate inter-ministerial consultations are proposed” on the TRAI (Amendment) Bill 2014 which is awaiting Cabinet approval.
Had there been such consultations, Planning Commission or some Ministry would have pitched for introduction of a comprehensive Regulatory Reforms Bill (RRB) 2013, which would have served Modi Government’s limited objective of regularizing the removal of legal hurdle in the appointment of Mr. Mishra.
The Bill, drafted by the Planning Commission, provides for one-year cooling period for re-employment of retired chairman and members of regulatory bodies.
The proposed law would govern the constitution, powers, functioning and accountability of the regulatory commissions for public utilities in 13 sectors. It would standardize structures, functions and accountability mechanism for all regulators. 
RBB has an “Overriding effect” clause which reads as:  “Save as otherwise provided in this Act, the provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any enactment other than this Act.”
Planning Commission had perpared RRB following a mandate from the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in 2010 and in pursuance of the recommendations made by Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC).
In its 13th report titled ‘Organisational Structure of Government of India’ submitted in April 2009, ARC had recommended that introduction of “greater uniformity in the terms of appointment, tenure and removal of various regulatory authorities considering these have been set up with broadly similar objectives and functions and should enjoy the same degree of autonomy.”
UPA Government had accepted this and all other recommendations for creating an effective regulatory framework.
The new Government should thus face no difficulty if it replaces TRAI amendment Bill with RRB as there is deemed consensus on the issue of uniformity of structure of regulatory bodies, their powers and accountability to achieve the larger objective of good governance.
Modi Government should, in fact, complement, RRB with national policy on public private partnership (PPP) that was drafted by Finance Ministry in September 2011.   
Enactment of regulatory reforms law, amendment of CAG (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service) Act to explicitly empower CAG to audit PPP projects and announcement of PPP policy should be on the top of new Government’s Infrastructure agenda. 
                                         
 
 
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