Tata Sky, Airtel Digital TV move Delhi HC against TRAI tariff order and regulations

MUMBAI: Direct-to-home (DTH) operators Tata Sky and Airtel Digital TV have moved Delhi High Court against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) tariff order and interconnection regulation.

Both the petitions will be heard by the division bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Any Malhotra.

In essence, the appeals contend that TRAI’s tariff order and regulation violates Article 19 (1)(G) of the Constitution, which allows citizens “to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business”.

The main argument of the DTH operators is that the TRAI tariff order and regulation treats unequals as equals by prescribing the same monthly rentals and discounts for DTH operators and multi-system operators (MSOs).

DTH and cable TV are two different platforms and the former has to invest more in infrastructure and backend. The two are also against regulation of carriage fee and must carry clause.

Both Airtel and Tata Sky have argued that the new regime will seriously impede their right to do mutually negotiated agreements.

Another contention of the DTH operators is that the new regime will completely overhaul the business models of DTH operators even though the overall regulatory framework is running smoothly.

Earlier, Star India had secured a stay order from the Supreme Court until the Madras High Court takes a final decision on its petition challenging the jurisdiction of TRAI to frame the tariff order and interconnection regulation.

The Madras High Court will hear the case on 12 June and will have to wrap it up within four weeks. TRAI’s new regime will come into force from 1 September.

Star had moved the apex court as the Madras High Court had dismissed Star and Vijay TV’s petition seeking a stay on the tariff order and regulation until the completion of the jurisdiction appeal.

TRAI had notified the tariff order and interconnection regulation on 3 March following a go-ahead from the Supreme Court. The SC had also stated that the Madras HC could continue to hear the issue of jurisdiction.

While retaining most of the recommendations, TRAI had removed the genre-wise price ceiling. The authority has said that any channel that is priced above Rs 19 could not be part of the bouquet.

In December 2016, Star and Vijay had challenged TRAI’s jurisdiction to fix price of content. The Madras HC ordered TRAI to maintain status quo.

Irked by the order, TRAI filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court, which allowed the regulator to frame regulations with the condition that the same be placed before the apex court before being notified.

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