Final Hearing matters may be affected till Alam’s successor is found in TDSAT

NEW DELHI: Justice Aftab Alam, who has chaired the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal for the past three years, is laying down office in just under a week – but has made sure that work is not affected till a successor is appointed.

With the other member Kuldip Singh retired at the end of March, the tribunal now only has Justice Alam who retires on 16 June and member Bipin Behari Srivastava.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act 2000 clearly stipulates that the Chairman has to be either a former or sitting Supreme Court judge or a sitting or retired Chief Justice of a High Court.

The selection of the chairman and a maximum of two members has to be made by the central government, and Department of Telecom sources have confirmed that the process has been initiated by the Communication and Information Technology ministry.

But perhaps keeping in view the time that may elapse before his successor is found, Justice Aftab Alam had on 26 May issued a notice re-constituting work allocation.

The chairperson said that with effect from 1 June, there will be two benches in TDSAT: the first will have the chairperson and one member, while Bench Two will have ‘Member/Members’.

He also made clear that Bench two will deal with matters listed for ‘preliminary hearing, directions, and for orders for passing interim orders only.’  This bench may also dispose of cases where a settlement is arrived at either bilaterally or through the Mediation Centre of the tribunal.

However, while TDSAT will not come to a standstill and will continue to hear new matters and also pass interim orders, this will affect those cases which have been listed for final arguments. These include cases such as the definition of adjusted gross revenue, the direct-to-home arrears case, and the matter relating to digital cable addressable tariffs for commercial establishments like hotels etc.

Justice Alam directed that this arrangement - issued by him under Section 14B (4)(b) and 14B(5) read with Section 14-1 of the TRAI Act - will continue until further orders.   

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