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Delhi High Court adjourns TRAI vs Tata Sky case to January 28

If the Delhi High Court rules in favour of TRAI, Tata Sky and other operators will have to follow the new framework. If the court rules in favour of Tata Sky and other companies, the tariff rollout could be stalled

The ongoing legal tussle between Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and DTH player Tata Sky is yet to be resolved as the Delhi High Court has adjourned the case to January 28.

The final judgement in this case was supposed to be declared on January 23 by the Delhi High Court but the matter has been adjourned as the judge was on leave. The matter is being argued by senior lawyer Kapil Sibal on behalf of Tata Sky.

DTH major Tata Sky had filed a petition against TRAI's new regulatory framework. Other players such as Bharti Telemedia-owned Airtel Digital TV and Sun Direct are also part of this petition.

In the Delhi High Court, Tata Sky has specifically asked the court to understand how TRAI came to the decision to implement the upcoming tariff plan. The operator also challenges that the new guidelines will impact the business adversely, and impact profitability as well.

Earlier, Star India had also challenged TRAI on similar issues in the Madras High Court. The Court upheld the tariff order implementation, which Star TV then challenged in the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court order is anything to go by, the current legal battles could also go in TRAI’s favour. The apex court had noted that one of the TRAI’s functions was to “facilitate competition and promote efficiency in the operation of telecommunication services (which includes broadcasting services) so as to facilitate growth in such services.”

Last month, TRAI had withdrawn its appeal before the Supreme Court to reinstate the 15% cap on discounting of channel bouquets under the new MRP-based tariff order.

The 15% cap, part of TRAI’s new MRP-based tariff order, was set aside by the Madras High Court on a plea filed by Star India, following which the authority had moved the Supreme Court.

At present, the Delhi High Court is still hearing the petitions by Tata Sky and Airtel. While Tata Sky wanted protection against fines or penalties for failure to implement the new tariff plans because the case was ongoing, the Delhi High Court has already told the DTH company to do so at its own risk.

As of now, Tata Sky’s website has not been updated to reflect the pricing for channels under the new guidelines—for instance, while the new pricing for Star Plus HD is now capped at Rs 19, Tata Sky is still reflecting the ala-carte pricing as Rs 30.

After February 1, 2019, TRAI's new regime will come into effect and subscribers will pay only for the channels they have chosen to watch on their DTH or cable connection, rather than being bound by packs decided by the DTH companies or cable operators.

If the court rules in favour of the regulator, then the operators will have to follow the new framework. As a result, Tata Sky will have only three days to ensure the smooth migration to the new regime.

However, these companies could also move the Supreme Court. And, if the Delhi High Court rules in favour of Tata Sky and other companies, then the tariff rollout could be stalled.

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