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NTO 2.0 Case: High Court reserves judgment, TRAI can’t take coercive steps

As per sources, the Bombay High Court recently heard arguments from both sides

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The Bombay High Court has said TRAI cannot take any coercieve action against broadcasters for non-implementaion of 2020 regulatory framework.

The Bombay High Court recently heard arguments from both sides. The judgment has been reserved and till that time TRAI cannot take any coercive action against any broadcaster for non-implementation, sources have said.

In earlier report, we had reported how during one of the hearings TRAI was asked several questions by the division bench of Bombay High Court, comprising both Justice AA Sayed and Justice Anuja Prabhudesai.

The bench questioned whether the twin conditions were placed by TRAI for the consultation. It pointed out that more than 90% bouquets in the market are DPO bouquets, which do not seem to be under the same restrictions as applicable for the formation of bouquets by broadcasters. The Bench then asked TRAI's counsel to explain how DPO bouquets are bound by the same restrictions as applicable to broadcasters.

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.

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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