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Star joins ZEE in challenging TRAI’s non-DAS tariff hike decision

MUMBAI: Star India has joined Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) in challenging the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) decision to roll back the inflation-linked 27.5% tariff hike for non-addressable markets.

star india logoThe broadcaster has impleaded itself in the matter in which ZEEL has challenged TRAI’s decision. The contention of the parties is that TRAI did not follow the Supreme Court mandate of conducting a fresh tariff exercise.

The tribunal allowed Star India’s application and permitted it to file its pleadings in the present appeals within one week. The respondent (TRAI) has been directed to file its reply within 10 days thereafter, with liberty to question the maintainability. Star India may file its rejoinder within a week thereafter. The matter has been put up under the same head on 9 November.

Star India counsel Gopal Jain submitted that the broadcaster’s prayer related to the press release issued by TRAI on 10 May. He further submitted that, the appellant being a broadcaster, its interest is closely linked, and hence it is a necessary and proper party to the pleadings.

zee-entertainment01He further referred to Order no. 1, Rule 8-A of the CPC, bringing to the notice of the tribunal the power of the court to permit a person or body of persons to present opinion or to take part in the proceedings.

According to TRAI counsel Kirtiman Singh, Section 14A, sub-section 3 of the TRAI Act provides a period of 30 days from the date on which the authority has taken a decision as the period for filing an appeal.

However, the provision also states that the Appellate Tribunal may entertain any appeal after the expiry of the said period of 30 days on being satisfied that there is sufficient reason for filing it within that period.

Hearing the counsels of both sides, the tribunal felt that the adjudication of the impugned press release could affect the whole sector, especially the broadcasters and the distributors.

Background to the case

TRAI-LOGOThe Supreme Court had refused to grant a stay on the TDSAT order that set aside TRAI’s 27.5% inflation-linked tariff hike even as it asked distribution platforms not to seek refund from broadcasters until TRAI comes out with a fresh tariff order.

Earlier, the TDSAT had set aside the TRAI order to give inflation-linked tariff hike in two instalments, contending that agreements being entered in digital addressable system (DAS) areas were at rates far lower than the prescribed ceiling of 42% of non-conditional access system (non-CAS) areas.

TRAI undertook this exercise after taking the Supreme Court’s permission. The authority has not undertaken inflation-linked tariff hike for almost five years since the matter is sub judice. The hike in non-addressable tariff has a bearing on addressable system tariff as DAS tariff is 42% of non-DAS tariff.

ZEEL counsel Tejveer Singh Bhatia said that he would be filing the rejoinder to TRAI’s replies within 10 days from 28 September.

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