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Delhi HC directs TRAI to explain changes in tariff order implementation

TRAI needs to file an affidavit within a week.

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MUMBAI: Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajendra Menon on Wednesday questioned the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for altering the implementation process of its new tariff regime without informing the court. The chairperson of the sector regulator has now been directed to file an affidavit within a week explaining these changes.

Though some felt it’s a procedural matter, sources in the government opined situation is not as bad for the regulator as a section of the industry would like to make it out. Refusing to be identified or named, a source in the government said there were some hiccups in the transition process as it’s a mammoth process involving millions of households, but TRAI’s reply to the court, as directed, would address the issues adequately.

The TRAI on Tuesday had extended the deadline for consumers to select television channels under its new tariff regime till 31 March 2019. The subscribers that don’t opt for new channels would be moved to ‘Best Fit Plans’, which would be developed as per usage pattern, language and channel popularity, the sector regulator said in its press note. The regulator’s main premise was that consumers should not be inconvenienced, especially those in far-flung areas and without modern techs as running internet, with the changes being sought to be implemented.

On Wednesday, Gopal Jain, arguing on behalf of Discovery India Communication, questioned the basis (and permission) on which the regulator filed its voluminous affidavit (running into 500 pages) on 6 February 2019 after the last hearing in the matter.

Jain also brought to the court’s notice Tuesday’s TRAI press note, which, he said could have a bearing on the case.

Jain also highlighted the difference between the over 500 pages that were annexed to the TRAI affidavit, which talked about consumer choice, and the press note (on Tuesday) that seems to shift choice in the hands of the DPOs, a proposition that is antithetical in nature.

In the absence of a senior counsel, TRAI sought time from the court after the chief justice asked for an explanation on the same.

While the case was adjourned to 21 February, the court wants the TRAI chairperson to file an affidavit stating on what basis (and whose permission) the initial affidavit was filed.

What the court also wants the TRAI to explain is the correlation between the affidavit which talks only about consumer choice and the press note which gives the choice in the hands of the DPOs.

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