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TRAI-Star case back to Madras HC with SC rider

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court (SC) today referred the case relating to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and Star India involving the proposed tariff regulations back to the Madras high court (HC) with a rider that the judgement should be delivered within a month.

TRAI had filed a review petition in the SC after the Madras HC delivered a split verdict on the case on 2 March 2018.

The Madras HC judges, while agreeing that various tariff-related points (such as capping the discount offered by broadcasters and maximum retail price [MRP]) in the TRAI’s proposed tariff regulations were arbitrary, could not arrive at a consensus whether the regulator had overstepped to regulate business models related to copyrights over content.

The Madras HC had further said that another judge would hear the issues. It was hearing the case as petitioners Star India and Vijay TV had filed a case against the 2016 tariff regulations and the SC had directed the HC to dispose of the case within a certain time frame. While striking down certain aspects of the tariff guidelines (MRP and discounting limits), issued by the TRAI late in 2016 and upholding the petitioners’ plea, the two-judge bench of the high court referred to another yet-to-be-decided judge the issue of jurisdiction of the TRAI on matters such as copyright over content.

“The reason for putting a cap of 15 per cent to the discount on the MRP of a bouquet disclosed in to the impugned tariff order is that, as per data available with the TRAI, some bouquets are being offered by the distributors of television channels at a discount of up to 80-90 per cent of the sum of a-la-carte rates of pay channels constituting those bouquets. Such high discounts force the subscribers to take bouquets only and thus reduce subscriber choice. This, in my view, cannot be a reason to restrict the discount,” the judgement observed at one point.

The lengthy verdict (over 140 pages) of the two-judge bench of the HC, which had been hearing a case filed by Star TV and associate Vijay TV challenging the TRAI’s tariff guidelines on various grounds of copyright and whether the regulator had the jurisdiction to make regulatory guidelines, was delivered after the hearings got over several months back and the verdict was kept in abeyance.

Also Read:

SC could take up TRAI-Star case on tariff regulations

Madras HC gives split verdict in Star India versus TRAI case

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