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SC seeks impleadment of DTH ops in inflation-linked tariff hike case

MUMBAI: The Supreme Court has asked the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) to file necessary applications to implead the direct-to-home (DTH) players, who are parties in the proceedings before the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), in the inflation-linked tariff hike case.

DTH operators like Airtel Digital TV, Dish TV, Videocon d2h and Reliance Big TV were party in the case in the TDSAT.

The appellant side was represented by Kapil Sibal, Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Salman Khurshid and Gopal Jain, the senior counsel for the appellants, while the respondents were represented by KK Venugopal, L Nageshwar Rao and Aman Lekhi.

During the hearing, the appellant side sought interim protection against the TDSAT order that set aside the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) 27.5 per cent inflation-linked tariff hike for non-addressable systems.

The respondents, Centre for Transforming India (CTI) and Home Cable Network, argued that the appeal itself is not admissible as there is no substantial question of law, let alone an interim order that the appellants are seeking against the TDSAT order.

After hearing the senior counsels and seeing the TDSAT order, the bench of Justice V Gopala Gowda and Justice C Nagappan said that the appellants have to argue the matter for framing of substantial question of law to admit the appeals under Section 18 of the TRAI Act, 1997, as Section 18(1) of the Act provides for framing of substantial question of law as required under Section 100 of the Civil Procedure Code.

The bench has listed the matters immediately after the summer vacation.

The IBF, Star India and Vijay Television had appealed against the TDSAT’s 28 April order setting aside the TRAI’s 27.5 per cent inflation linked tariff hike in the Supreme Court.

The appellants argued that TRAI has two functions, namely tariff fixation and inflation-linked adjustment, both of which can go hand in hand. They also contended that the inflation-linked tariff hike was given only after the SC allowed it. They also submitted that the last inflation-linked tariff hike was given in 2009.

CTI and Home Cable Network, along with other cable operators, had challenged the tariff hike in TDSAT contending that the tariff hike was arbitrary.

The tribunal had set aside the amendments in the principal tariff order giving 27.5 per cent inflation-linked hike to broadcasters in two instalments in non-addressable areas.

While setting aside the amendments, the tribunal had said, “All that we are saying is that when the TRAI was asked to conduct the exercise de novo the least that it could have done was to consider all the relevant data available with it rather than follow the past practice citing lack of data.”

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