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Decks cleared for TRAI tariff order implementation as HC declines stay (updated)

NEW DELHI: The Madras High Court has declined a petition to stay the tariff orders for cable TV by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India slated to come into effect from 2 May 2017.

Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar directed the main petition by Star India and Vijay TV to be heard on 12 June. However, the court said that Section 3 of the Tariff order and all other consequences of such implementation/enforcement would be subject to the outcome of the main petition.

The broadcasters had challenged the order of TRAI on the grounds that it had no jurisdiction over content,, and that actually came under Copyright Act, which is not administered by TRAI.

The Court said the petitioners had not made out a strong and prima facie case for an interim stay. It also said that it had noted that the situation prevailing on 3 March 2017 when the order was issued and that prevailing today ‘has not changed so drastically’ so as to warrant an interim stay. The Court said that it had also kept in view the larger public plea made by the Government counsel.

This implies that TRAI is now free to implement its tariff order, reference interconnect offer (RIO) and Quality of service order (QoS) from 2 May.

The Court took note of the point made by TRAI counsel P Wilson that every broadcaster would publish its Reference Interconnect Offer on 2 May 2017. Any distributor interested in entering into an agreement would hold discussions with the broadcasters and agreements would be signed by 1 June 2017.

However, the commercial operation/transactions under the agreement can start only from 1 September 2017.

Although the Indian Broadcasting Federation had been impleaded and supported the plea for interim stay, the court said it had come to understand that many of the members of the IBF “are now in favour of the impugned interconnect regulations and the tariff order.”

The Court had also allowed the All-India Digital Cable Federation which has around 10 MSOs operating pan-India under its wing to intervene and had opposed the plea for interim stay.

Earlier, on 28 March, both the broadcasters had not pressed their plea for stay of the order after TRAI told the court that implementation of these orders had been postponed from 2 April to 2 May. TRAI had issued the tariff order, Quality of Service, and Reference Interconnect Agreement orders after getting clearance on 3 March from the Supreme Court.

Hearing on the petition has had a chequered history with three judges recusing themselves. Though it was not clear, it appeared that the judges Justice S Nagamuthu, Justice Anita Sumanth and later Justice Govind Rajan had received letters which prompted them to withdraw from the case.

The fresh petitions became necessary as the matter is being heard afresh by the bench headed by the chief justice

Apart from the Tariff order which had originally been issued on 10 October last year, the regulator also issued the DAS Interconnect Regulations which had been issued on 14 October last year, and the Standards of Quality of Service and Consumer Protection (Digital Addressable Systems) Regulations which had been issued on 10 October last year.

The orders can be seen at:

http://trai.gov.in/sites/default/files/Tariff_Order_English_3%20March_20...

http://www.trai.gov.in/sites/default/files/QOS_Regulation_03_03_2017.pdf

http://www.trai.gov.in/sites/default/files/Interconnection_Regulation_03...

Also read: Star - TRAI copyright case: In dramatic turn, Madras HC judges withdraw

TRAI notifies tariff order implementation from 2 May, RIO in 60 days

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