TDSAT refuses to pass interim order on Fastway’s appeal against TRAI tariff order implementation

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has refused to pass any interim order on a petition filed by multi system operator (MSO) Fastway Transmissions seeking directions to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) against proceeding with tariff order and interconnection regulations.

Fastway had moved TDSAT arguing that the regulator should wait for the Supreme Court judgement since it has appealed against the dissenting judgement of the Madras High Court’s Chief Justice of India setting aside the clause which states that broadcasters cannot offer more than 15% discount on the bouquet price.

The MSO has been taken that the authority should have enforced the tariff order 2017, as well as Quality of Service Regulations, 2017 in toto without deciding to prefer a belated appeal before the apex court against what it calls, was a mere observation in the dissenting judgment of the then Chief Justice of Madras High Court.

Fastway counsel Meet Malhotra argued that there was no clear-cut finding that any part of tariff order or the Regulation was ultra vires, rather final outcome was total dismissal of the writ petition by the then Chief Justice and to that judgement the third Judge expressed his total concurrence.

TRAI counsel Rakesh Dwivedi said that the regulator would be happy if the apex court agrees with the main submissions of the MSO and holds that the third proviso to clause 3(3) of the Tariff Order is valid and remains unaffected by the observations in the judgment of the then Chief Justice.

He further stated that the TRAI does not want to rely on the views of the MSO and would prefer to get a clarification from the apex court itself and till then it does not want to take the risk of being called as a Regulator acting in violation of the judgment of the Madras High Court.

The tribunal stated that the issue as to whether the judgment of the apex court will have the effect of reversing the observation or the findings against the respondent’s tariff in the third proviso to para 3.3 must be left to be considered by the Supreme Court.

“Hence, we are not persuaded to pass any interim order at this stage. The respondent is, therefore, free to act as per the impugned order which will, of course, be subject to the outcome of this petition and to any order that may be passed by the Apex Court. If so advised, the Appellant may approach the Apex Court in the pending matter,” the tribunal said in its order.

The tribunal admitted Fastway’s appeal for hearing. It directed TRAI to file a reply or short reply on the question of law noted above may be filed within six weeks. Rejoinder, if any, may be filed within four weeks thereafter. The matter has been posted under the heading “for directions” on 26 February 2019.

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