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Bombay HC reserves order in NTO 2.0 case, directs TRAI not to take any coercive step

The High Court is expected to pronounce the final order in this case in the second or third week of November 2020

In the writ petitions filed by several broadcasters and IBF before the Bombay High Court challenging TRAI’s new tariff regime for the broadcasting sector (commonly referred to as NTO), the High Court has reserved the matter for judgment after hearing extensive arguments of both the sides.

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Importantly, during the course of the final hearing, the High Court has passed an order recording TRAI’s assurance stating that “When the matters were reserved for orders, an assurance was given to the Court by the learned Senior Counsel for the Respondent Authority that no coercive steps or measures shall be taken for non-implementation of the 2020 Regulatory Framework till such time that the order is passed by the Court”.

The assurance of the Respondent Authority (TRAI) would extend to not just the petitioners who have approached the Bombay High Court but even non-petitioners, whether broadcasters, MSO, DTH or cable operators. This would mean that the NTO regime of 2017 (implemented in 2019) would continue to be the applicable regulatory framework and TRAI will not take any measure or steps against any player (whether broadcaster, MSO, DTH or cable operators) who stays within NTO - 2017 regime but doesn’t implement the 2020 Amendments. Notably, 2020 Amendments which were notified on January 01, 2020, have not been implemented so far and has even been admitted so by TRAI on multiple occasions.

TRAI had, in the interim, made an application to the Bombay High Court inter-alia seeking to limit the aforesaid assurance only to the petitioners. However, in the order passed by it subsequent to the said application of TRAI, the High Court did not limit the assurance to the petitioners alone.

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