The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and other broadcasters have approached the Bombay High Court over the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) July 24 directive, asking all broadcasters to comply with NTO 2.0 by August 10, despite the fact that the matter is sub judice and the final judgment has been reserved by the court.
The matter, which was listed for hearing today at the Bombay High Court, will now be heard tomorrow as the court has suspended all the hearings due to heavy rains.
Before going to court, IBF and many broadcasters in individual their capacities wrote to TRAI, protesting its fresh direction.
TRAI wrote back to the broadcasters on Monday, stating that there was no stay on the implementation and the authority was within its right to issue the direction.
“The allegations of TRAI overreaching the Hon’ble Bombay High Court or its Orders is unfortunate to say the least,” it said in its reply on Monday. “It is surprising that you conveniently excluded all references to the fact that from 14.01.2020, when the Writ Petitions were first moved for urgent relief, till 4th March, 2020, when it was reserved for Orders, the Petitioners [broadcasters], on multiple occasions, unsuccessfully pressed for ad-interim and/or interim relief. It is requested to kindly refer to the records for this period to refresh your memory,” the authority wrote in its reply to broadcasters on Monday.
“TRAI is duty-bound to promote orderly growth of the sector and cannot allow a regulatory vacuum to prevail and impairing thereby the interests of various other stakeholders, including the consumers. In view of the aforesaid, the Authority is of the considered view that the implementation of the new regulatory framework notified on 01.01.2020 in terms of direction dated 24.07.2020 would definitely benefit all the stakeholders,” it said.
It may be recalled that the division bench of Justice AA Sayed and Justice Anuja Prabhudessai had reserved its order after day-to-day hearing from February 26 to March 4, 2020. However, the court did not pass any ad-interim/interim order restraining implementation of the regulations and tariff order.
Although the court did not stay the implementation of NTO 2.0 in writing, it told both parties verbally not to go ahead with anything right now till the judgment is out. That means it was an informal stay. TRAI agreed before the court that it will not take any coercive action.
Stating that there is a regulatory vacuum because of the delay in the judgment and that broadcasters are taking advantage of the prevailing situation, TRAI had approached the Bombay High Court in June to pronounce the order at an early date. Following this, broadcasters had filed their replies to the court.
However, sensing more delay in the release of the court order, the authority decided not to wait any more and on July 24 went ahead with the fresh direction.