TRAI ad cap: Broadcasters move Delhi High Court

MUMBAI: The 12 minute ad cap case has had a change in venue - from the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to the Delhi High Court (HC). With the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that TDSAT does not have authority to hear cases challenging the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regulations, broadcasters had filed a writ petition in the HC last Friday.

The case is set to be heard on 17 December in the Delhi HC by Justice Manmohan. The appellants include the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), 9X Media, B4U, TV Vision, Sun TV, E24 and Pioneer Channel. The hearing for the case is set to begin afresh but the priority of the lawyers representing the broadcasters will be to get a stay order from the HC to disallow the TRAI from taking any coercive action against channels which are reportedly not following the 12 minute ad cap. Under the TRAI mandate, it can persecute channels who do not toe the line that it has set.

“We will ask for a stay order on TRAI taking any punitive actions against broadcasters. Since the TDSAT had given a stay order earlier and the bench was headed by a SC judge Justice Aftab Alam, we hope we get it from the HC too,” says a senior executive.

The case will by and large remain the same with the focus on the fact that the ad cap is not a regulation at all. However, since it is now the HC, the crux of the arguments will be on constitutional grounds such as Article 14 and Article 19 that talks about the right to equality and freedom of speech respectively.

The channels will now have to go through the long drawn process of the hearing proceeding in the HC and getting the stay order against the regulator taking them to the cleaners for violation of the ad cao reglation. They have been fortunate not to have got the stick so far from the TRAI which could have prosecuted them as it was within its rights to do so.

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