Judiciaries as crucial actors in Southern regulatory systems: A case study of Indian telecom regulation


Arun K. Thiruvengadam, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, 469 G Bukit Timah Road, Eu Tong Sen Building, Singapore 259776. Email: lawakt@nus.edu.sg


This article addresses regulatory reforms in the Indian telecommunications sector and emphasizes the role of the Indian judiciary. Our claim is that when confronted with a series of disputes relating to the nascent telecom regulatory landscape, the Supreme Court of India sought to make a constructive contribution to both the actual disputes as well as the overall regulatory framework. Our reading of these cases suggests that in the sphere of telecom, the Supreme Court has been less interested in stamping its own authority on issues, and has instead sought to bolster the authority and legitimacy of the recently constituted telecom regulatory institutions. We seek to draw attention to the role of the Indian judiciary as marking an exceptional feature of evolving regulatory systems in the Global South. Conventional wisdom in the regulatory jurisprudence that has evolved in the Global North suggests that judiciaries should have little or no role to play in regulatory systems. We suggest that to overcome the special challenges that regulatory systems in the Global South confront, more established institutions and actors might have to lend credibility and legitimacy to enable nascent regulatory actors to develop over time. At least in the Indian case, this is one way to understand the Indian judiciary's interventionist actions in the sphere of telecom regulation.