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TDSAT admits pleas seeking stay on TRAI non-addressable tariff hike

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has admitted appeals filed by the Centre for Transforming India (CTI) and Home Cable Network challenging the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) decision to hike non-addressable system tariff by 27.5 per cent with effect from 1 April.

CTI counsel Aman Lekhi and Home Cable counsel Arun Kathpalia made a spirited request for staying the operation of the TRAI order. However, the tribunal said that it was not inclined to pass any stay order at this stage.

The tribunal directed TRAI counsel Saket Singh to file its reply by 2 July, and rejoinder, if any, can be filed by 14 July. The tribunal has put up the appeals under the heading ‘for hearing’ for final disposal on 4 August.

Considering the fact that the increase in tariff is bound to affect the entire broadcasting sector and the cascading effect will go right down to the individual TV viewers, the tribunal proposed to dispose of these appeals at the earliest.

The tribunal also stated that in case any stakeholder in the broadcasting sector—including any individual broadcaster, or association of broadcasters—wishes to intervene in the matter, they must file a proper petition for intervention by 4 July.

In case any intervention is allowed, all parties brought on record must complete the pleadings latest by 26 July, after which date no pleadings may be accepted.

Currently only Dish TV has joined the matter as intervener.

Meanwhile, the tribunal has directed all stakeholders to keep a separate account with regard to the collections on the basis of the order.

In case the appeals are successful, the individual subscribers making any excess payment in terms of the order will be entitled to adjustments for the succeeding month from the respective LCOs/MSOs.

Similarly, the LCOs will be entitled to adjustments from the MSOs and the LCOs, while the MSOs will be eligible for adjustments from the broadcasters, the tribunal stated.

The TRAI had recently notified 27.5 per cent hike in cable tariff in two phases after getting a go-ahead from the Supreme Court to revise tariff to make adjustments for inflation. The apex court posted the matter for hearing on 9 July for final consideration.

TRAI had on 20 February filed an application with the SC seeking permission to revise tariff for non-addressable, as it had not been able to undertake the exercise since 2009 since the matter was sub judice.