TRAI tariff order withdrawal: Star India joins ZEEL in appeal

NEW DELHI: Star India Pvt Ltd has been impleaded as a party in two appeals challenging the withdrawal by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India of two inflation-linked Tariff Amendment Orders issued by it in 2014 and set aside by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal.

Observing that the adjudication in the matter will affect the whole sector especially broadcasters and distributors, Tribunal Member B B Srivastava said in his order of 28 September 2016 gave Star one week to file its affidavit and asked TRAI to reply within ten days of that.

The Tribunal listed for 9 November 2016 the further hearing of the two appeals filed by Zee Entertainment Enterprise Ltd against the withdrawal of the TRAI tariff orders of 9 May this year.

Earlier, Star counsel Gopal Jain said the Secvtion 8A of the Civil Procedure Code was clear that any party or parties that may be affected by a court decision could be impleaded and heard.

However, TRAI counsel Kirtiman Singh said that Section 14A (3) of the TRAI Act provides a period of thirty days for filing an appeal. But he noted that a proviso says that the Tribunal can take note if there is sufficient reason for this.

Observing that there is healthy growth in the industry with rise in revenues outstripping the increasing inflation over the years, TRAI had decided that two inflation-linked Tariff Amendment Orders issued by it in 2014 and set aside by the Tribunal are not required at present.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had on an appeal from the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and another party also upheld the TDSAT order setting aside the amendments in two tariff orders which had sought to put an inflation-linked hike of 27.5 per cent on addressable and non-addressable systems.

Holding the Telecommunication (Broadcasting & Cable) Services (Second) Tariff (Eleventh Amendment) Order 2014 of March 2014 and ‘The Telecommunication (Broadcasting & Cable) Services (Second) Tariff (Thirteenth Amendment) Order 2014 of December that year were ‘untenable’, the Tribunal had said it thought TRAI “will be well advised to have a fresh look at the various tariff orders in a holistic manner and come out with a comprehensive tariff order in supersession of all the earlier tariff orders.”

In its directives withdrawing the orders, TRAI said: "During analysisof relevant data and the impact of various factors on the issue ofinflation linked hikes in tariff ceilings at the wholesale levels”, it had observed that the “annual revenues that actually accrued to the broadcasters had surpassed the estimated revenues that should have accrued to them after taking into account the year-on-year inflation as calculated using the GDP deflator. The compounded annual growth rate of the revenues accruing year-on-year to the broadcasters has also witnessed a positive growth. More importantly, this growth has kept well ahead of the estimate revenues compensated for the year-on-year change in the inflation using the GDP deflator.”

The tariff hike had been challenged by Home Cable Network and the Centre for Transforming India, with Lucknow 9 Cable Network, Good Media News India Pvt Ltd, Sikkim Digital Network and Cable Combine Communication Siliguri as intervenors. Later, Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) supported the order as intervener while the other interveners who were Direct to Home (DTH) operators, Multi System Operators (MSOs), Association of Cable Operators/Cable Operators opposed the order on the same grounds as the Appellants.

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