SC adjourns IBDF vs TRAI matter to 27 September

In the previous hearing, the bench had stated that it will consider IBDF's prayer for interim relief on 7th Sep. It had also asked TRAI to file its counter affidavit before the next hearing

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Sep 16, 2021 9:04 AM  | 3 min read

The Supreme Court has adjourned the Indian Broadcasting Digital Foundation (IBDF) vs Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) matter to 27th September. The matter was scheduled for hearing on 7th September but then got relisted to 15th September since the bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant, and Justice Aniruddha Bose was preoccupied with other matters.

“The Court is convened through Video Conferencing. Upon being mentioned by Mr. Mukul Rohatgi, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners, we direct the Registry to list the matter on 27.09.2021 before an appropriate Bench,” the bench said in a brief order dated 15th September.

In the previous hearing on 18th August, the bench had stated that it will consider IBDF's prayer for interim relief on 7th September. It had also asked TRAI and Union of India to file their respective counter affidavits before the next date of hearing.

“So far as the prayer for grant of interim relief is concerned, taking into consideration the rival submissions made by the learned Senior counsel appearing for the parties, we are not inclined to grant the same at this stage,” the bench had said in its order dated 18th August. “List the matters on 7th September 2021 to consider the question of granting interim relief in the matters.”

Recently, the TRAI had filed its counter affidavit in the matter. The regulator has contended that reducing MRP cap to Rs 12 and introducing twin conditions in the NTO 2.0 will ensure 'fair bundling' and discourage 'unfair bundling'. The counter affidavit was filed in response to the IBDF petition against the Bombay High Court order which upheld NTO 2.0, except the 2nd Twin Condition which was struck down, and the TRAI's power to fix tariff in the larger public interest.

The regulator said that the amendments in 2020 regulation make small changes to the 2017 regime which introduced sweeping changes. These changes have been alleged by the broadcasters, to be draconian, constituting a whole new paradigm. This, the TRAI said, is far from the truth.

In its petition to the SC, the IBDF has urged the Supreme Court to set aside the Bombay High Court's order rejecting the petitions filed by broadcasters besides granting an ex-parte stay on the implementation of NTO 2.0.

In its 1137-page petition, the IBDF has said that the Bombay HC order is erroneous and is liable to be set aside. It has also urged that the operationalisation of NTO 2.0 would require the broadcasters and distribution platforms to execute over 100,000 agreements, and it would be virtually impossible to roll back the effect of the said change, in the event its appeal succeeds.

The foundation has also contended that the TRAI will not suffer any prejudice or hardship if an interim stay is granted. Therefore, the IBDF argued that the balance of convenience lies in favour of the broadcasters since they stand to be subjected to greater inconvenience if the interim order is denied.

The biggest grouse that the IBDF has against the Bombay HC order is that it has incorrectly read into Article 19(2) by applying an additional requirement of public interest when it comes to interpreting a broadcaster’s right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a).

This, the IBDF said, will restrict the fundamental right to speech and expression of the broadcasters and will give powers to the TRAI to micromanage the broadcasting sector.

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