Delhi HC allows MSOs to implead in Tata Sky, Airtel Digital TV case against TRAI

NEW DELHI: Multi-system operators (MSOs) will be allowed to implead in the case filed by Tata Sky and Bharti Telemedia challenging TRAI’s tariff order and interconnection regulation.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday allowed the All India Digital Cable Federation’s (AIDCF) plea to implead in the case.

A division bench headed by Delhi High Court acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal permitted the AIDCF to make legal submissions.

The matter has been listed for hearing on 16 August. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) tariff order is set to come into effect from 2 September.

Tata Sky and Bharti Telemedia had filed separate petitions. The bench had on 12 May decided to hear their pleas together as the issues raised by both against TRAI’s regulations were similar.

Tata Sky has challenged the tariff order and interconnection regulation, while Airtel Digital TV has challenged QoS regulations along with the other two. The two DTH operators had moved the court contending that TRAI’s tariff order and regulation violate 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 tariff order and regulation treat unequals as equals by prescribing the same monthly rentals and discounts for DTH operators and 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 the ‘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.

Meanwhile, the case filed by Star India and Vijay TV in the Madras High Court has made progress. The rejoinders have been completed last week, and a judgment is expected after the parties furnish their written submissions on 27 July.

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