TRAI Asked by Bombay High Court If It Can Put Off New Tariffs for TV Viewers

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The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) if it can defer the implementation of its 2020 tariff order as the court is hearing pleas filed by producers, broadcasters and cable operators against the new regulations.

A division bench of Justices Amjad Sayyed and Anuja Prabhudessai noted that the 2020 regulations and tariff order are to come into force on March 1. “Even for interim relief, detailed arguments would have to be canvased. Considering the complex issues involved, it may not be possible to hear all the parties and pass orders within two days,” the court said.

“We deem it appropriate to request the Additional Solicitor General and the senior counsel for TRAI to take instructions whether the impugned 2020 Regulations and 2020 Tariff Order can be deferred,” the bench said.

The court noted that the operation of the earlier Regulations of 2017 had been deferred for one month by the TRAI. The HC posted the matter for further hearing on February 27. Several broadcasters including the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, a representative body of TV channels, The Film and Television Producers Guild of India, Zee Entertainment and Sony Pictures Network India have moved the HC. In January, another bench had refused to defer the deadline of January 15 given to broadcasters to submit their revised tariff plans to TRAI. The broadcasters in their petitions said the amended regulations were “arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of their fundamental rights”. The TRAI, on January 1, 2020, issued new tariff rules. Earlier, all free-to-air channels were available for Rs. 130, and consumers needed to pay more to watch additional channels. Under new tariffs, consumers will pay Rs. 130 as Network Capacity Fee charges, but will be entitled to 200 channels.

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