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Gujarat HC pulls up govt, TRAI, and MSOs for failing to file replies

MUMBAI: The High Court of Gujarat has given a final chance to the Union Government, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the multi-system operators (MSOs) to reply to a petition filed by cable operators challenging the constitutional validity of the digital addressable system (DAS) Tariff Order and Interconnect Regulation.

Peeved at the repeated delay, the two-member bench comprising Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J. B. Pardiwala told the respondents (Union Government, TRAI and MSOs) that it will proceed to final hearing in the case if they fail to file their replies.

The HC had issued notices to the three respondents on 30 January stating that this was their last chance to file replies. The matter has been listed for hearing on 13 February.

It is pertinent to note that the HC had given the respondents time till 12 November to file replies within two weeks. The HC had to adjourn the matter repeatedly as the respondents failed to file their replies each time.

The COAG had filed a petition on 26 September 2013 challenging the Tariff Order and Interconnect Regulation. In its petition, the COAG had alleged that the revenue share formula mooted by TRAI was discriminatory towards local cable operators (LCOs).

The association had also argued that TRAI’s Tariff Order has acted unfairly as it grants the MSO the right to bill a subscriber despite the fact that the last mile customer is owned by the LCO. The association also opposed the authority’s decision to allow the MSOs to design packages and decide the package rates at the cost of LCOs.

The Tariff Order and the Interconnect Regulation has been designed to give the ownership of the last mile customers to the MSOs. The unfair revenue share formula will also lead to loss of revenue for the LCOs, COAG had contended in the petition.

The COAG had also appealed to the High Court to restrain the MSOs from asking the LCOs to collect customer application forms (CAF) from the subscribers.  However, the HC refused to pass any order in the matter citing its inability to stay the implementation of an existing regulation.