Chennai: Justice M.M. Sundresh, of Madras High Court hearing case related to TRAI’s new Tariff Order of 2017, had pronounced his verdict today by concurring in favour of the view of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee of telecom regulator TRAI on its new Tariff Order of 2017.
Earlier, Chief Justice Ms. Indira Banerjee who, through an order dated 3rd March 2018, had held that the TRAI Act confers upon TRAI sufficient jurisdiction to notify the said Tariff Order and Interconnection Regulation of 2017 and Today, Justice M.M. Sundresh also reiterated the same views in his verdict today by opining that ‘TRAI Act confers upon TRAI sufficient jurisdiction” to notify the Tariff Order and Interconnection Regulation of 2017 in order to regulate the industry in time to time.
Apparently, this gives enough validity for TRAI to move forward with its New Tariff Order of 2017. The Chief Justice in her verdict also felt that the clause, which stated that ‘discounts on MRP of a bouquet should not exceed 15%’ was arbitrary and unfair. Hence, the same might be removed by TRAI and pass on with all other clauses of its new tariff order.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had notified a new framework for pricing of television channels offered to subscribers in March 2017 and it had given broadcasters time till May 2017 to comply with the order. Several players, including Star TV and Vijay TV, had challenged TRAI’s jurisdiction in fixing the price of content. TRAI, however, said its actions are in consonance with the TRAI Act, 1997.
Earlier, the Madras High Court bench headed by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M. Sundar differed on the judgment related to the writ petitions filed by Star TV against TRAI’s new Tariff Order of 2017. Since the Chief Justice had differed with her co-judge in the first Division Bench, she asked the High Court Registry to place the writ petitions filed by Star India and Vijay TV, challenging the regulations as well as tariff order issued by the TRAI, before the next available judge in the court in the order of seniority (which happens to be Justice Huluvadi G. Ramesh) for nomination of the third judge before whom the case could be listed for hearing.
TRAI’s new tariff order on the pricing of television channels is likely to bring down the prices of cable television and DTH services by 25-30 per cent, which will also dent the profitability of DTH players owing to non-bundling of channels. The regulations as well as the tariff order also mandate that a bouquet of pay channels should not contain any channel whose maximum retail price (MRP) was more than ₹19. They stated that the MRP of a bouquet should not be more than 85% of the sum of a-la-carte MRP of pay channels constituting the bouquet.