At last, the 115-year-old Indian Telegraph Act 1885 is getting
replaced by a more contemporary law, the Indian Telecom Act 2000. A sub-group headed by
constitutional expert Fali S. Nariman has completed a draft of the proposed law. This will
go for ratification to the Group on Telecom and Information Technology Convergence set up
by prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and headed by finance minister Yashwant Sinha
before it goes to Parliament for enactment.
One of the main changes in the proposed Indian Telecom Act
2000 will be the ending of "exclusive privileges" granted to the government by
the earlier law, which allowed the government to exercise a monopoly in telecom services.
The government will only have the right to grant telecom licences.
The new law will deal only with the carriage of
information through various channels while abolishing the governments exclusive
privilege of running the telegraph services. The sub-group is of the view that the word
"telegraph" should be deleted altogether and replaced with
Mr Nariman has also suggested several other amendments in
the Act to reflect the convergence of telecom, infotech, television and electronics. The
sub-group has in fact listed out the direction of the new legislation and its principal
features, leaving details to be incorporated through rules to be framed by the appropriate
Senior telecom department officials, who assisted the
sub-group in evolving the draft, have said the existing Indian Telegraph Act had all the
required provisions to administer a telecom policy, except that it did not contain new
concepts like 'bandwidth'. These need to be incorporated. Otherwise, the act even had
provision for the government to issue licences to private operators.
Another important change mooted is making it mandatory for
every telecom operator to provide interconnectivity. The concept did not exist in the old
act, even after it was last amended in 1974, since telecommunications was a government
Besides Yashwant Sinha, the committee on convergence
consists of managing director of ICICI K V Kamath, law
secretary R L Meena, information and broadcasting secretary Y N Chaturvedi, and Anil Kumar
of the department of telecommunications.
also see : Basic and cellular telephone operators in India