Hearings continue in Trai rulings validity case

NEW DELHI: The hearing on the constitutional aspects of the ongoing case on whether Trai can at all fix tariffs for pay channels continued today.

Set Discovery counsel Afpi Chinay argued that there is no law in the country that allows the operations of broadcasters to be regulated. Chinay said that neither the Telecom Regulatory Authority of Indian act nor the Cable TV act has any provision for regulating the content providers, and the orders fixing tariff were thus automatically against the laws.

This is a case of violation of freedom or speech and expression under Article 19 1 A of the Constitution, Chinay said. He challenged the proviso to section 21 K of the Trai act which originally said that the government could at a later date include any other service under the head of 'telecom services' but that would not include the broadcasters. He said that the amendment of the Act in 2000 gave the Trai the powers to regulate, but this did not apply to them as they were neither licensees nor service providers under the meaning of the Act.

Chinay also challenged the Rules as amended on July 31, 2006, which gave the government the power to regulate and fix tariff.

Chinay held that the Cable TV Act does not have this provision, and it says that though the government could control prices of the 'basic tier' only, that is, the free-to-air channels, it could not do the same for the pay channels.

Chinay held that the rules cannot take over the Act under which they exist, hence the fixing of tariff under such rules were not acceptable.

The hearing is to continue tomorrow. The original case had been filed by Star in 2005 and later, Sony joined issue, filing a separate appeal in 2006. The HC is hearing the range of cases under this new petition (No. 16913 of 2006), which is now being treated as the main petition.

The contention of the broadcasters is that Trai or Cable TV act does not have regulatory powers whatever, so far as the pay channels are concerned, hence any order issued on this by Trai stands automatically struck down. Earlier, Soli Sorabjee had appeared for Sony and had placed his preliminary argument.

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