Madras High Court Chief Justice Indira Banerjee will hear the tariff order dispute between Star India and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today. The move comes after successive recusals pertaining to writ petitions 44126 and 44127 (2016) filed by Star India and Vijay TV, challenging the constitutionality of TRAI’s tariff order. The petitioners have contended that the regulations are in violation of the TRAI Act, 1997 and hence, should be struck down.
Earlier, on April 17, the division bench of Justice S Manikumar and Justice M Govindaraj had sought recusal from hearing the matter on account of the former having passed a judgement in a similar case. Justice Manikumar had previously upheld the International Telecommunication Access to Essential Facilities at Cable Landing Station (Amendment) Regulations, 2007 and International Telecommunication Cable Landing Stations Access Facilitation Charges and Co-Allocation Charges Regulations, 2012. That matter now stands challenged before a division bench.
“In the above said circumstances, it would be appropriate that the instant writ petitions are heard by a Hon’ble Division Bench, in which one of us (Hon’ble Mr Justice S Manikumar), is not a party. Registry is directed to place the matter immediately before My Lord, the Hon’ble Chief Justice, for obtaining suitable orders,” the bench had observed. The first recusal in the case occurred on April 5 when an anonymous petition was filed before the CJ of Madras HC alleging irregularities on the part of Justice S Nagamuthu.
Following the accusation that Justice Nagamuthu had sought the help of Star India’s counsel and former finance minister P Chidamabaram to become a judge, Justice Nagamuthu and Justice Anita Sumanth recused themselves from adjudicating over the case. The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Eight) (Addressable Systems) Tariff Order, 2017, published in the Gazette of India on April 3, will be implemented from May 2.