MUMBAI: So the slugfest on the pricing of digital television in India is entering the next round. And, it is Star India now that has approached the Supreme Court and filed a caveat with it on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) tariff regulations and more specifically on the 15 per cent discount issue.
According to sources, TRAI too had filed earlier a caveat at the apex court. A caveat is a notice given by a person or an organisation, informing the court that another person/company may file a suit or application against him/them and that the court must give the caveator – person/company filing the caveat - a fair hearing before deciding any matter brought before it in the relevant case.
Last week, the third judge of the Madras High Court had upheld the regulator TRAI’s order on channel tariffs and dismissed the petitioners’ (Star India and Vijay TV) plea that pricing of content is not under the jurisdiction of the TRAI.
Even as the high court upheld all the proposed regulations, it disallowed one that puts a cap of 15 per cent on the discount that can be offered by broadcasters or TV channels to distributors on the maximum retail price.
Another observation of the high court relating to broadcast re-transmission rights or BRR too hasn’t gone down too well with the petitioners and that could be an issue too behind an appeal at the Supreme Court. Though, it is still not clear whether the petitioners or respondent would appeal the Chennai court order.
Meanwhile a similar case is pending against the TRAI in the Delhi High Court. It involves Bharti Airtel Telemedia, Tata Sky and Discovery Communication India, which had filed petitions against the tariff order in 2017. The TRAI had then informed the court that the issues raised in the petitions were the subject matter of two writ petitions already filed in the Madras High Court and requested that it may await the outcome of those proceedings.
The Delhi high court had accepted the request but had directed TRAI that it should inform it and the petitioners about the judgment before effectuating the orders. Additionally, earlier the Supreme Court too had ordered the maintenance of status quo as far as the pricing regulations were concerned.
The Madras HC has suspended its decision for two weeks to give time to parties involved to appeal to a higher court or seek further clarifications from it.