Gujarat High Court accepts plea against TRAI NTO 2.0 amendments

MUMBAI: The empire strikes back even as TRAI has been rubbishing news that NTO 2.0  is detrimental to the industry and will put the brakes on it. Despite repeated representations from different bodies, TRAI is sticking to its guns on imposing pricing regulations. Now the industry is fighting back.

A spate of cases has been filled in different courts in a bid to turn TRAI and the government to its point of view. Earlier broadcasters have appealed at the Bombay and Madras High Courts and now they have filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court. Sources say that a few more petitions will be filed in different courts.

The Gujarat High Court accepted a petition filed by broadcasters challenging the new tariff order for the broadcast sector by TRAI. Hearing the petition, Justice AY Kogje of the Ahmedabad bench of the Gujarat High Court issued notices to the Union of India and TRAI, asking them to file replies by 3 February, failing which the high court would grant interim relief to the petitioners.

Petitioners named Somabhai Makwana, Nidhi Jani, Bharat Thakore, and Falguni Shah in their petition have stated that the tariff order issued by the regulatory body is beyond the powers under Section 11(2) of the TRAI Act and is conflicting with the provisions of Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.

On 1 January this year, TRAI had issued amendments to its tariff order for the broadcast sector, which received huge criticism from broadcasters and distribution operators alike.

According to the petitioners, fixation of the network capacity fee (NCF) of Rs 130 per month per subscriber is not based on any intelligible material, and the criteria for determining the proposed amount lacks transparency.

The case is ongoing in the Bombay High Court as well. In the previous hearing held on 14 January, the Bombay HC bench consisting of Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice RI Chagla had directed TRAI to file a reply in one week. They, in fact, had also refused to put a stay on the amendments pertaining to the new regulatory framework.

Key amendments proposed by the broadcasters include the reduction of MRP cap to Rs 12, implementation of twin conditions on bouquet pricing, and other being the discount on channel bouquets to around 33 per cent.

Earlier, Sun TV Network moved Madras High Court challenging the amendments to the new regulatory framework. The case  will be heard on 4 February. Hearing the matter, the division bench of Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad also issued notices to the Union of India and TRAI.

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