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Why TRAI Still Cannot Implement Tariff Order

The Madras High Court on Wednesday pronounced a landmark judgement in the case related to a tariff order and interconnection regulations notified by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in March 2017. Although the judgement is almost completely in favour of TRAI, the authority still cannot implement the tariff order yet.

This is because while Star India and Vijay Television have lost the case in Madras High Court, a similar case against the TRAI is pending in the Delhi High Court.

In 2017, Bharti Airtel Telemedia, Tata Sky and Discovery Communication India had filed petitions against TRAI, challenging its tariff order and the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable Services) Interconnection Regulations 2017. In this case, the authority had informed the Delhi High Court that the issues raised in the petitions were the subject matter of two writ petitions already filed in the Madras High Court and requested that Delhi High Court that it “may await the outcome of the proceedings before the High Court of Judicature at Madras.”

Accepting the request, the Delhi HC had told TRAI that “upon the pronouncement of the judgment by the High Court of Madras, the respondents shall inform the petitioners of the outcome in the judgment and shall inform this court as well before effectuating the orders.”

Also, the Supreme Court, while hearing the case earlier, had ordered “status quo” with regard to any TRAI tariff orders or regulations and said that “these matters be disposed of expeditiously.”
Pronouncing the much-awaited judgment on Wednesday, the Madras High Court approved all proposals of the TRAI’s tariff order related to the pricing and packaging of TV channels offered in a bouquet, except the one that puts a cap of 15 per cent on the discount on the maximum retail price of a bouquet.
The judgement was pronounced by a third judge of the Madras High Court. Earlier, a two-member bench of the high court had delivered a split verdict in the case. The two members of this bench were Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar. While Justice Banerjee, who was heading the bench, had ruled in favour of TRAI, Justice Sundar had ruled otherwise. The matter was then referred to a third judge.

The petition was filed by Star India and Vijay TV against the TRAI order claiming that content pricing should be left at the discretion of the broadcasters.

Pronouncing the verdict, the Madras High Court said, “There was no need to go into the issue if the impugned regulations and the tariff order touch upon the content or carriage as contended by the petitioners.”
“Only because the petitioners are affected, the impugned regulation and the amendment would not partake the character of content,” the court held. – Exchange 4 Media

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