Top Court Dismisses Petition Challenging Telecom Regulator’s Tariff Order

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The top court's judgement came on a plea by Star India Private Limited. (File)

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the plea challenging the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's March, 2017 regulations and tariff order relating to fixation of charges for free and pay channels.

It said in view of any inconsistency, the TRAI Act must prevail over the Copyright Act with regard to issues such as royalties and compensation to be paid.

A bench comprising Justices Rohinton F Nariman and Navin Sinha said the Regulation and the Tariff Order have been made keeping the interests of the stakeholders and the consumers in mind and are "intra vires" the regulation power contained in Section 36 of the TRAI Act.

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The bench said that if in exercise of its regulatory power under the TRAI Act, the regulator were to impinge upon compensation payable for copyright, "the best way in which both statutes can be harmonised is to state that, the TRAI Act, being a statute conceived in public interest, which is to serve the interest of both broadcasters and consumers, must prevail, to the extent of any inconsistency, over the Copyright Act which is an Act which protects the property rights of broadcasters".

It added: "We are, therefore, of the view that, to the extent royalties/compensation payable to the broadcasters under the Copyright Act are regulated in public interest by TRAI under the TRAI Act, the former shall give way to the latter. As there is no merit in these appeals, the same are, therefore, dismissed."

The top court's judgement came on a plea by Star India Private Limited challenging the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Eighth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff Order, 2017 and the consequential Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017.

Contending that the impugned order and regulations were unconstitutional and ultra vires of the provisions of the TRAI Act, 1997 in as much as they were beyond the scope of the jurisdiction of the regulatory authority, they sought to quash the same.

Among others, the TRAI regulations said channels when given in bouquets should not be a mix of pay channels and free to air channels, and mandated that a bouquet should not contain any pay channel where the maximum retail price was more than Rs 19.

It had also said MRP of a bouquet should not be more than 85 per cent of the sum of a-la-carte MRP of pay channels constituting a bouquet.

Besides, the regulations also mandated that MRPs of broadcasters should be uniform for all distribution platforms.

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