Updated: 05:04 pm
NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court today adjourned to 15 July the final hearing of a bunch of petitions challenging the ad cap sort to be imposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), even as it said the regulator will not take any coercive action under the ad-cap regulations.
The adjournment by Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw was allowed after counsel Neeraj Krishna Kaul representing the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) sought more time to file a rejoinder.
The bar on coercive action by TRAI had been given in an earlier hearing and remains in force. However, the Court had said the petitioners have to submit a weekly report on the consumption of commercial airtime in a clock hour.
TRAI Counsel Saket Singh opposed the adjournment noting that the matter had come up earlier before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) but has been transferred to the High Court after the Supreme Court ruled that TRAI regulations could not be adjudicated upon by the Tribunal.
He said a lot of time had been, and in any case the Cable TV Networks (Regulations) Rules of 1994 were clear about the ad cap and TRAI had only sought to implement that.
However, Kaul argued that the case involved important constitutional issues as they were cases where the freedom of the press and freedom of speech and expression are involved and the case cannot be decided without having all facts on record.
Earlier in the hearing on 13 March, TRAI sought early hearing in the case on the ground that it had filed its affidavit and the court gave time to NBA to file its rejoinder.
The NBA had challenged the ad cap rule, contending that TRAI does not have jurisdiction to regulate commercial airtime on television channels.
Apart from the NBA, the petition have been filed by Sarthak Entertainment, Pioneer Channel Factory, E24 Glamoru, Sun TV Network, TV Vision, B4U Broadband, 9X Media, Kalaignar, Celebrities Management, Eanadu Television and Raj Television.
The news and regional broadcasters fear that the capping of commercial airtime will curtail their ad revenues. They also argue that the ad cap must be brought only after the benefits of cable TV digitisation start kicking in.
Earlier, the Court had also granted interim relief to Hyderabad-based MAA Television Network against the ad cap regulation. However, the court had also observed that the cap on advertisements is a ‘reasonable exercise’.
The broadcasters had on 17 December challenged the ad cap rule in the Court after TDSAT had dismissed their appeal in the wake of the apex Court judgment that the tribunal does not have jurisdiction over TRAI regulations.
Four major broadcast networks—Star India, Zee Entertainment Enterprises, Multi Screen Media and TV18 Group—are following the regulation.