Lok Sabha passes TRAI amendment bill

NEW DELHI: The appointment of former Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Nripendra Misra as principal secretary to the Prime Minister got legislative sanction in the Lok Sabha when it passed the amendment to the TRAI Bill to remove the clause which bars appointment of former TRAI officers in government posts.

The amendment was passed despite protests by the Congress. The Nationalist Congress Party which is an ally of the Congress had over the weekend said that it would support the amendment as this was not the first case of a retired government servant being re-employed in the government. The Trinamool Congress which had initially said it would oppose the bill decided to support it.

The Bill replaces the ordinance issued on 28 May by the Bharatiya Janata Party which said it was based on merits while the Congress has criticised the government for showing undue haste in bringing a person specific ordinance.

Under Parliamentary procedures, any ordinance has to be replaced by an Act within six weeks of the session that commences after the promulgation of the ordinance.

The government strongly defended the move. Law and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government is in "full power to bring the bill" and the effort was to bring TRAI on par with other similar organisations like the Competition Commission.

Misra, a 69-year old 1967-batch Indian Administrative Service officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre who retired in 2009, joined the Prime Minister’s Office the day the ordinance was promulgated. Before the Ordinance was promulgated, the TRAI Act prohibited its chairman and members from taking up any other job in central or state governments after demitting office.

The TRAI Act 1997 says: "The chairperson or any other member ceasing to hold office as such, shall (a) be ineligible for further employment under the Central government or any state government or (b) not accept any commercial employment for a period of two years from the date he ceases to hold such office."

The amended section now reads: "The chairperson and the whole-time members shall not, for a period of two years from the date on which they cease to hold office as such, except with the previous approval of the Central government, accept "(a) any employment either under the Central government or under any state government; or "(b) any appointment in any company in the business of telecommunication service."

Although the BJP is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, the Bill is expected to be passed in the Upper House as the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party apart from NCP and TMC are also supporting it.

The bill will become a law after it is passed by the Rajya Sabha and assented to by the President.

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