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Madras HC TRAI-Star case: All parties keep options open

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MUMBAI: Even as till late evening yesterday all those connected with the case filed by Star India and Vijay TV against regulator TRAI in Madras High Court kept waiting for the full text of the court order, options for future course of action were kept open, including whether the high court should be asked to clarify on some observations.

As the high court, by keeping its final verdict on hold, has given two weeks time to petitioners to consider appealing in the Supreme Court, which is already in summer vacation mode with just the vacation bench active, TRAI also cannot go ahead and get its tariff order implemented immediately.

Justice MM Sundresh, who was assigned to hear the Star TV and Vijay TV vs. TRAI case after another bench had given a split verdict, concurred with the view of Madras HC chief justice Indira Banerjee who, through an order dated 3 March 2018, had held that the TRAI Act confers upon the regulator sufficient jurisdiction to notify the said tariff order and interconnection regulation.

However, the judge also, reportedly, struck down some other aspects of the tariff order, including an important part that capped at 15 per cent the discounts that could be offered by TV channels.  

That all stakeholders in this court drama are keeping their cards close to the chest can be gauged from the fact the only organisation to come out with an official statement welcoming the Madras HC order, AIDCF (All India Digital Cable Federation), too had nothing to offer on a time frame for implementation of TRAI tariff order. Efforts made to elicit responses from Star India, TRAI, Indian Broadcasting Foundation or even individual media industry players drew a blank. The common refrain was: we haven’t read the actual order, so can’t comment.

Still, after talking to various people in the industry a possible scenario that emerges hinges around petitioners going back to the Madras HC seeking clarifications on some of the observations of the court, which may take some time. After those clarifications come through, it would be decided whether to exercise the option of appealing in the Supreme Court, especially because a major pivot of the case is the copyright of TV channels over the content it generates and whether TRAI has any jurisdiction over such copyright issues.

With the present TRAI Chairman RS Sharma’s tenure ending in a few months time, he would ideally like to see the tariff order, issued during his tenure, implemented before his superannuation.

Also Read:

Third Madras high court judge gives TRAI tariff order thumbs up

Madras HC gives split verdict in Star India versus TRAI case

MSOs move Madras HC seeking relief on inter-connect pacts

Orders reserved by Madras HC on TRAI jurisdiction case

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