Mumbai, August 12: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on a bunch of petitions filed by television broadcasters challenging the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s new tariff order.
A bench of Justices Amjad Sayed and Anuja Prabhudessai is now likely to pronounce its verdict on August 24, news agency PTI reported.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Wednesday, gave the bench an oral assurance that TRAI would defer implementation of its new tariff order till August 25 and will not take any coercive steps against the broadcasters till then.
The petitioners approached the high court earlier this month, challenging a July 24 notification issued by TRAI asking them to implement its new tariff order.
The new tariff order was issued in January this year. It imposes lower fees, and a price cap on the subscription fees for pay channels, among other things. The broadcasters challenged the new tariffs, saying the amended regulations were “arbitrary and violative of their fundamental rights”.
The bench led by Justice Sayed heard the petitioners at length between February and March this year and reserved orders. The court at that time had not passed any interim orders.
On July 24, TRAI issued a notification, warning broadcasters of coercive action if they did not implement the new tariff order. The broadcasters then approached the high court challenging such notification, saying, among other things, that since the matter was already sub-judice, the regulatory body could not compel them to implement the tariff plan.
TRAI maintained that the high court had not passed any orders restraining it from implementing these regulations. It, thus, asked all broadcasters to comply with the new tariff order by August 10.
Therefore, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, a representative body of TV channels, and several broadcasters moved the high court again this month, challenging the July 24 directions and seeking a stay on its operation till the court decided the matter finally.
On January 1, 2020, TRAI issued new tariff rules by which prices of the Network Capacity Fee (NCF) were lowered, benefiting consumers.
Previously, a sum of Rs 130 was applicable for all free-to-air channels and consumers needed to pay more in order to watch additional channels.
After the amendments to broadcast sector tariffs, consumers will pay Rs 130 as NCF charge, but will be entitled to get 200 channels. The new plan also imposed a price cap on the subscription fee of individual pay channels.
As per the new plan, consumers will be allowed to choose the TV channels they want to watch, instead of having to opt for pre set channel bouquets. The new tariffs were to initially come into effect from March 1, 2020.