Regulators

TRAI jurisdiction: IBF plea dismissed, AIDCF impleadment decision on 22 Feb

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MUMBAI: Cable operators body may become interveners in the Item 7 case heard last Friday between television broadcasters and TRAI over tariff issues vis-a-vis international and Indian copyright laws in the Madras High Court. Indian Broadcasting Foundation's plea to be heard in the case was however dismissed with leave to file fresh writ petition, if required. 

After Star India and Vijay TV had moved the high court appealing against TRAI?s jurisdiction to draw guidelines over tariff and commercial matters where copyrights was involved relating to content, the regulator had moved the Supreme Court seeking succour.

As far as AIDCF's impleadment application and that of D2H are concerned, while the judges were convinced that the All India Digital Cable Federation, India?s apex body for digital multi-system operators, could be interveners, whether or not they could be impleaded will be heard in next hearing as, due to paucity of time, their submissions could not be completed. AIDCF president TS Panesar could not be reached.

"There is no speaking order on AIDCF's intervention yet," STAR India's senior VP - legal and regulatory Pulak Bagchi told www.indiantelevision.com. After Supreme Court hears the case on 20 February, it will come up in the Madras High Court, which will decide if AIDCF could implead or intervene, Bagchi said.

The Madras High Court case has now been adjourned to 22 February for further arguments in the impleadment application. The judges also verbally indicated that their writ petition would be heard, and that, if impleaded, counters would need to be filed by AIDCF by 7 March. "We undertook to do so if impleaded," an AIDCF representative told www.indiantelevision.com.

As reported by www.indiantelevision.com on 1 February, 2017, MSOs had joined issue requesting the Madras High Court to hear their views too. AIDCF has sought to be impleaded in the case and urged the high court -- hearing the Star India-Vijay TV case against TRAI over draft tariff guidelines -- that, while disposing of the case, it?s viewpoints should also be heard and taken into account.

Sources had indicated that the MSOs had moved the court as they apprehended the viewpoints of  distribution platforms of TV services in India, notably the MSOs, may not be heard; especially when they have views that don?t converge with those of the petitioners on all aspects of the petition.

Industry observers had explained that the presence of distributors in the court made the case interesting as the IBF too had urged to be heard. The application of IBF however was yesterday dismissed by the high court with leave to file fresh writ petition, if required. www.indiantelevision.com could not reach IBF for comment and next strategy.

However the apex court, while  directing TRAI that it could continue with its regulation-framing exercise and seek its nod before mandating guidelines, observed that the regulatory body should argue its case before the Madras High Court, declining to stay proceedings in the high court.

The high court had asked TRAI to maintain status quo on tariff guidelines till full hearing of the case filed by Star India and Vijay TV. 

With regard to the impleadment applications, Ar. L Sundaresan appeared on behalf AIDCF, Vijay Narayan appeared on behalf of D2H and A l Somayaji appeared on behalf of IBF. A counter-affidavit was filed by Vijay TV to AIDCF's impleadment application. 

Sundaresan made submissions in AIDCF's impleadment application to which Chidambaram objected. The other senior counsel also made submissions in support of their respective impleadment applications which was also objected to. 

P. Chidambaram appeared on behalf of one of the petitioners and P.S. Raman appeared for the other. They did not mention in which WP they were appearing in. And, P. Wilson appeared on behalf of the regulator TRAI. 

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