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In India, the Telegraph system started from 1850 onwards, and 1951 is Centenary Year in the history of Indian Telegraph System. India's telecom sector, has been doing exceptionally well, in past decade. Its structural and institutional reforms have provided tremendous growth opportunity to this sector. The first reforms in Indian telecommunications sector began in 1980s when the private sector was allowed in telecommunications equipment manufacturing. In 1985, Department of Telecommunications (DOT) was established. Evolution of the Industry and Important Milestones since 1851 of Indian Telecommunications are, first operational land lines laid by the Government near Calcutta (seat of British power) in the year of 1881. Telephone services introduced in India in the year 1883 was then merged with the postal system. Indian telecom industry underwent a high pace of market liberalization and growth since 1990s and now has become the world's most competitive and one of the fastest growing telecom markets. The Industry has grown over twenty times in just ten years, from under 37 million subscribers in the year 2001 to over 846 million subscribers in the year 2011. India has the world's second-largest mobile phone user base with over 995.9 million users as of May 2012. It has the world's third-largest Internet user-base with over 137 million as of June 2012. There are currently 748 Permitted Private satellite television stations in India, on 02/12/2013, In addition to that more than 30 Government channels are there. Hindi-language television channels have the highest market share. In addition numerous regional channels are available in throughout India, often distributed according to languages. Telecommunications have supported the socioeconomic development of India and has played a significant role to narrow down the rural-urban digital divide to some extent. It also has helped to increase the transparency of governance with the introduction of e-governance in India. The Government has pragmatically used modern telecommunication facilities to deliver mass education programmer for the rural folk of India.

Communications are the main event in our daily lives rather it is from a business aspect or personal, human communication on a daily basis. The importance of effective communication during developmental stages spread over many varieties of situations and contexts. Good communication skills are the basis of knowledge and understanding of the researchers theories. Before Nationalization, Central Government had the power to give license to any company under section 4 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1876, and specially empowered in this behalf, to place telegraph lines under or over property, belonging whether to private persons or to public bodies.

The nationalized industries are examples of public sector activities. The reasons for nationalization have indeed been diverse but one important reason has been the fact of natural monopolies. It is simply uneconomic to envisage competition in the field of water, electricity, telegraph, broadcasting etc. India has adopted the common law doctrines.


Communications in India

Revenue (Total)

USD 33,350 million

Telephony

Telephone Subscribers (Total) (2012)

995.9 million (May 2012)

Fixed lines (May 2012)

31.53 million

Mobile phones (2012)

929.37 million

Monthly telephone additions (Net) (May 2012)

8.35 million

Teledensity (2012)

79.28 %

Rural Teledensity

33 %

Projected teledensity by 2012

84 %

Internet access

Percent household access (total), 2012

10.2% of households (137 million)

Percent broadband household access

1.18% of households (14.31 million)

Broadband internet

users

14.31 million (May 2012)

Internet Service Providers (2012)

155

country code top-level domain

.in

Television broadcast stations (2009)

1,400

Radio broadcast stations (1997)

800


Before Nationalization the definition of 'Telegraph' was any appliance, instrument, material or apparatus used or capable of use for transmission or reception of signs, signals, writing, images, and sounds or intelligence of any nature by wire, visual or other electric or magnetic means;

In 1943; Nagpur bench of Hon'ble High Court has observed that the definition of 'Telegraph' includes radio.[1]

The Telegram services which was available to public for last 163-years have been stopped from 15th July 2013 as announced by BSNL on 12th July 2013.

Before nationalization, Indian Telegraph Act included two different divisions [Post and Telegraph]. The Telegraph Authority means the Director General of [Post and Telegraph] and includes any officer empowered by him to perform all the functions of the Telegraph Authority under the said Act. At that time any dispute concerning any telegraph line, appliance or apparatus would have arisen between the telegraph authority and the person and group of persons for whose benefit the line, appliance or apparatus was, or provided the dispute so arisen shall have to be determined by the arbitration and for the purposes of such determination, the dispute was required to be referred to an Arbitrator appointed by the Central Government either specifically for the determination of that particular dispute or determination of disputes in general under section 7B of Indian Telegraph Act.

But, the exclusive privilege and power to grant licenses of establishing, maintaining and working Telegraphs within the India was under the Central Government.

The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 defined 'telegraph' means any appliance, instrument, material or apparatus i.e., telegraph line, broadcasting, wires, radio, telephone, post and telegram etc., But on the passing of the time the definition has become more clear and there were different enactments for different services. Accordingly following Acts were enacted by the parliament:

  • The Indian Post Office Act, 1898
  • The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 [11th September, 1933.]
  • Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950. 
  • Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act 1990
  • The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995
  • Sports Broadcasting Signals(Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati)Act,2007.
  • Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act 1997 
  • Telecom Consumers Protection and Redressal of Grievances Regulations,2007

After nationalization in the sector of telecommunication; the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India regulated the telecommunications services which includes electronic mail, voice mail, data services, audio text services, video text services, radio paging and cellular mobile telephone services) which is made available to users by means of any transmission or reception of signs, signals, writing, images and sounds or intelligence of any nature, by wire, radio, visual  or other electro-magnetic means  but does not include broadcasting services:

The Central Government shall, by notification, under section 14 establish an Appellate Tribunal to be known as the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal to –

(a) adjudicate any dispute –

(i) between a licensor and a licensee;
(ii) between two or more service providers;
(iii) between a service provider and a group of consumers:

Provided that nothing in this clause shall apply in respect of matters relating to-

(A) the monopolistic trade practice, restrictive trade practice and unfair trade practice  which  are subject to the  jurisdiction  of  the Monopolies and

Restrictive Trade Practices Commission established under sub-section (1) of section 5 of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969;

(B) the complaint of an individual consumer maintainable before a Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum or a Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission or the  National  Consumer  Redressal  Commission  established  under section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986;

(C) the dispute between telegraph authority and any other person referred to in sub-section (1) of section 7B of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885; (b) hear and dispose of appeal against any direction, decision or order of the authority under this Act.'[2]

'Under the provisions of TELECOM CONSUMERS PROTECTION AND REDRESSAL OF GRIEVANCES REGULATIONS, 2007 the individual consumers can seek the redress under Regulation 25,  or any other law for the time being in force

(1) The provisions of these regulations are in addition to any right conferred upon the consumers under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (68 of 1986) or any other law for the time being in force.  

(2) Any consumer may, at any time,-

(a)  during  pendency  of  redressal  of  his grievance, whether by  filing  of complaint or appeal, under these regulations; of

(b) before or after filing of complaint or appeal, under these regulations, exercise his right conferred upon him under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (68 of 1986) or any other law for the time being in force and seek redressal of his grievance under that Act or law.'[3]

Telecom Dispute Settlement & Appellate Authority have powers and jurisdiction to adjudicate disputes between 'licensor' and a 'licensee', or between two or more 'service providers. However individual consumer complaints are excluded from the scope of such adjudication. Central Government and State Government can be a service provider, as a licensor or as a service provider the Central Government can put such claim before the tribunal setup under the TDSAT If the claim can be maintainable naturally counterclaim, can also be equitable and setoff would be a consequences, counter claim by the Central Government, is maintainable, question of set-off would be also equitable and legal and would come to surface.[4]

Since 1885 to 1990, the Indian Telegraph (Radio, Broadcasting, Telegraph and Telephone etc.) was exclusively under control of Central Government. Due to which there was negligible growth in Telegraph sector that directly affected Indian economy. But, after liberalization in India, due to Telecommunication there was exponential growth of India economy.

General Manager Telecom v. M. Krishnan[5] and Revision Petition of Prakash Verma v. Idea Cellular Ltd & Anr.[6] are the cases decided subsequently after liberalization. The Supreme Court had pronounced judgment on the basis section 7B of India Telegraph Act, 1885. But, on coming into force Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 the section 14 and 25 respectively of the said acts wound have thrown the light on the subject matter while deciding above referred cases.

Thus I conclude that the service of Telegram was discontinued in India since 15th July 2013; as announced by BSNL on 12th July 2013, and the other provisions of Telegraph Act have become redundant in view of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act.

[1] AIR 1943 Nag 143.

[2]  Section 14 of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.

[3] Telecom Consumers Protection and Redressal of Grievances Regulations, 2007

[4] Union of India v. Tata Teleservices(Maharashtra)Ltd., 2007(10) Scale 266.

[5] General Manager v. M. Krishnan AIR 2010 SC 90.

[6] Revision Petition No.1703 of 2010 NCDRC NEW DELHI against order dated 10/02/2010 in Appeal No. 295 of 2010 of the State Commission Madhya Pradesh.


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