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Tata Sky vs TRAI: Discovery concludes arguments, Delhi High Court lists matter for 11 April

TRAI and all interveners in favour of the regulator will now respond

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MUMBAI: The Delhi High Court has adjourned the petition of top DTH operators Tata Sky, Discovery India Communication, Airtel Digital TV and Sun Direct challenging Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and its new tariff regime to 11 April. According to a source close to the development, Discovery India concluded its arguments, which commenced on 4 February, on Thursday. The long-running court battle is likely to conclude by the end of this month, as TRAI and all interveners in support of the regulatory body will commence their arguments during the next hearing. The matter is being heard by Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao.

Notably, the extended deadline for consumer migration under the new regime expired on 31 March. While the TRAI has repeatedly said most consumers have moved to the new regulatory framework, with a reduction in cable bills, several reports have claimed otherwise.

Earlier, the regulatory body in February extended the deadline to pick new channels under new regime till 31 March as well as gave a directive of Best Fit Plans. The subscribers that don’t opt for new channels would be moved to ‘Best Fit Plans’, which would be developed as per usage pattern, language and channel popularity, the sector regulator said in its statement.

Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajendra Menon on 13 February questioned TRAI for altering the implementation process of its new tariff regime without informing the court. The chairperson of the sector regulator had also been directed to file an affidavit within a week explaining these changes.

While the regulatory body has continuously declined that cable bills would go up under the new regime, several reports, as well as surveys, have indicated the hike in the monthly bill. Due to the change in pricing, many experts predicted that consumers would shift to OTT platforms eventually. To decrease the churn rate, some of the DTH players have removed network capacity fee for long duration packs.

In 2017, Bharti Telemedia, Tata Sky and Discovery Communication India had filed petitions against TRAI, challenging its tariff order and the interconnect regulations. Unlike the position adopted by Star India wherein it questioned the regulatory powers of TRAI, the matter in the Delhi HC questions the regulator’s power to wipe out deals that operators enter into to fix commissions and rates for customers.

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