TRAI appeal on 15% bouquet discount cap dismissed as withdrawn in SC

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s appeal on 15% bouquet discount cap has been dismissed as withdrawn in the Supreme Court.

TRAI had filed an appeal before the apex court for upholding the clause that caps discounts that can be offered by broadcasters on bouquets to 15%.

The bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran noted that the regulator has delayed in seeking clarification on the said clause.

It also stated that the apex court has given its judgement in the matter by upholding the TRAI’s jurisdiction to frame tariff and regulation for the broadcasting sector.

The bench left it to the TRAI to interpret the 30 October order with respect to the third proviso to the clause 3(3) of the tariff order.

“Learned counsel for the petitioner seeks leave to withdraw the petitions. The special leave petitions are dismissed as withdrawn,” said the SC in its brief order.

Speaking to, TRAI secretary SK Gupta said that the regulator will not be pressing for the implementation of the 15% discount cap for the time being.

However, the regulator will keep an eye on the way the new tariff framework is being implemented. The authority will step in, in case, it sees any distortion in the market.

“We are not pushing for the discount cap at this point. However, we are closely monitoring the situation. If we see any kind of distortion in the market we will meet with the stakeholders and take an appropriate decision,” Gupta said.

Last year, the Madras High Court had passed an order setting aside the 15% discount cap on channel bouquets of broadcasters. TRAI had appealed before the SC to reverse the HC order.

In its petition before the Supreme Court, the regulator had argued that the Madras High Court had committed a grave error by holding 15% discount cap on bouquet rates as arbitrary and non-enforceable as the scope of the challenge before the HC was the power and jurisdiction to frame the tariff order and the interconnection regulation.

Justice M Sundar had struck down the clause on the ground that it affects the content of the broadcasters while Chief Justice Indira Banerjee had noted that the cap is not in conformity with TRAI Act.

The TRAI petition further stated that the third judge of the Madras HC had erred by not deciding on the issue despite the difference of opinion among the judges.

TRAI had contended that the 15% cap on discount gives a level playing field to the broadcasters and DPOs. It had also reasoned that the broadcasters will arbitrarily and discriminatorily resort to heavy discounting on the bouquets as compared to the MRP rates.

The regulator had pointed out that the discounts on bouquets are generally more than 50% which is unreasonably high and prone to distortion.

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