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TRAI to wait for final SC verdict before implementing tariff orders for C&S

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NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has said that amendments to its tariff orders issued on 1 October, 2004 and 21 July, 2010, which had been set aside by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Arbitration Tribunal (TDSAT) earlier this month, would be subject to the outcome of the appeal filed by the regulator before the Supreme Court.

The two amendments made by the TRAI to its tariff orders that aimed at preventing broadcasters from giving their channels directly to subscribers and putting commercial subscribers at par with ordinary subscribers were struck down by TDSAT on 9 March.

TDSAT chairman Aftab Alam and member Kuldip Singh said the two amendments were “quite unsustainable and we are thus constrained to set aside the impugned amendment orders.”

The amendments referred to the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Second) Tariff (Twelfth Amendment) Order 2014 dated 16 July, 2014 and the Telecommunications (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Fourth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff (Fourth Amendment) Order 2014 dated 18 July, 2014 by which similar amendments were made in the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services(Second) Tariff Order 2004 dated 1 October, 2004 (relating to non-addressable or analogue systems) and the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Fourth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff Order 2010 dated 21 July, 2010 (relating to addressable systems) respectively.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and the Federation of Hotels and Restaurant Association of India had challenged the amendments as the commercial subscriber had been put at par with the ordinary subscriber and the tariff orders treat as equal groups of subscribers that are inherently unequal and are also so recognized in their different definitions in the tariff orders.

In a press note today, TRAI said it had filed an appeal before the apex court and decided to hold its orders in abeyance ‘after duly considering the matter.’

TRAI had issued the tariff orders - "The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Second) Tariff (Seventh Amendment) Order 2006" dated21 November, 2006and the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Third) (CAS areas) Tariff (First Amendment) Order2006" dated 21 November applicable to commercial cable subscribers in the non-addressablesystem (non-CAS) and the CAS systems, respectively.

Following an appeal, the Supreme Court had on 16 April, 2014 directed TRAI to look into the matter de-novo and within three months re-determine the tariff after hearing all the stakeholders' contentions.

The orders set aside by TDSAT on 9 March were the result of this re-examination.

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