Regulators

Star & Vijay TV amend plea, TRAI asked by Madras HC to file response

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NEW DELHI: The Madras High Court today decided to hear on 24 March the case by  Star India and Vijay TV alleging that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India tariff and other orders allegedly were in conflict with Copyright Act 1957.

This development came after the HC allowed an amended application from petitioners to be filed, which, according to industry sources, broadly states that TRAI regulations involving tariff, etc are bad in law.

Following the Supreme Court directive of 16 February 2017 on an appeal permitting TRAI to issue its tariff and other orders even as the case would continue in the High Court, both the broadcasters had filed an amended petition. The court also directed TRAI to file its reply by Wednesday next.

TRAI had issued three regulations, including one on tariff on 16 January 2017, the day the Supreme Court gave its clearance.

The broadcasters had sought to argue that the TRAI orders are in conflict with the Copyright Act 1957. As a result of that court order and pending the full hearing of the case, TRAI would not be able to pass any guideline for issues such as broadcast tariff, broadcast interconnect, and quality of services. The temporary stay by Madras HC was over-ruled by SC later.

It is also expected that a final judgment on the case could come about by 3 April 2017 in the Madras HC, if not before that date.

Last year, TRAI had issued draft guidelines on tariff interconnect and quality of service, and TRAI chairman RS Sharma had then told indiantelevision.com that the regulator would come out with its final recommedation by the end of 2016.

It may be recalled that the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) had also said in reaction to the TRAI drafts that the exercise was in direct conflict with the provisions of the Indian Copyright Act.

The comments had been stated in a submission to the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable Services) Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations 2016; the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable Services) (Eighth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff Order 2016; and the Standards of Quality of Service) and Consumer Protection (Digital Addressable Systems) Regulations 2016.

The All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF), which had made itself party to the case after being allowed by the Madras High Court, till the time of writing this report had not yet made up its mind whether to further join issues with petitoners’ amended application in Madras High Court.

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