SC dismisses Star’s appeal, upholds TRAI tariff order
MUMBAI: In a major setback for Star India, the Supreme Court has upheld the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s tariff order for broadcast sector. The apex court dismissed the broadcaster’s petition challenging the Madras High Court order which had upheld the TRAI tariff order and interconnection regulation.
On 11 October, the SC had reserved the judgement in the matter after hearing the arguments from all the parties involved.
The case was being heard by the bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Navin Sinha. The bench earlier comprised of Justice Rohinton and Justice Indu Malhotra.
The civil appeal filed by Star India and Vijay Television challenging the Madras High Court order allowing the TRAI tariff order and interconnect regulation was admitted on 20 July by the apex court.
Star India is yet to file its reference interconnect offer (RIO) declaring MRP and bouquet rates. Most of the other pay-TV broadcasters have published their RIOs subject to the outcome of the case.
Earlier, the apex court had issued notices to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and TRAI and had asked them to file counter affidavit within four weeks. The rejoinder, if any, be filed were to be filed within two weeks thereafter.
Star has challenged TRAI’s jurisdiction to frame the tariff order contending that the exploitation of intellectual property (IP) rights are covered under Copyright Act. The broadcaster has also challenged the TRAI press release informing about the implementation of the regulatory framework from 3 July.
The Madras High Court had in an order on 23 May upheld chief justice Indira Banerjee’s order allowing the TRAI’s tariff order and the interconnection regulation for the TV broadcasting sector.
Earlier, the division bench chief justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Sundar M had delivered a split verdict in the matter and had referred the matter to a third judge.
Justice Sundar had allowed Star India and Vijay Television’s plea to quash the tariff order and interconnection regulation while Chief Justice Indira Banerjee gave a dissenting judgement to Justice Sundar’s order. The matter was finally referred to Justice Sundresh.
Earlier this month, TRAI had stated that the tariff order, interconnection regulations, and quality of service (QoS) norms have come into effect from 3 July.
The authority had stated it has complied with the judicial mandates as the Madras High Court has upheld the tariff order and the interconnection regulations.
In compliance with the Delhi High Court, the authority had also filed an affidavit before the Court. The Delhi High Court had directed the authority to inform the court about the outcome in the Madras High Court. It had also asked the TRAI to inform before effectuating the orders.
The authority had directed all the service providers to comply with all the provisions of the regulations and tariff order afresh.
As per the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Eighth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff Order, 2017, the broadcasters have to declare the MRP and nature of channels within 60 days; distribution platform operators (DPOs) have to declare network capacity fee and distribution retail price (DRP) within 180 days and reporting by broadcasters within 120 days.
The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017 mandates publication of Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) by Broadcasters within 60 days; Publication of Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) by DPOs within 60 days and signing of the interconnection agreements within 150 days.
Under the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Standards of Quality of Service and Consumer Protection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017, subscribers have to migrate to the new framework within 180 days, the establishment of customer care centre, website, consumer care channel and publication of manual of practice within 120 days.