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Flashed on Saturday: Verdict out yet Star vs TRAI case hangs in limbo

05-March-2018
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Flashed on Saturday: Verdict out yet Star vs TRAI case hangs in limbo

After a seven-month long wait, the Madras High Court on Friday has sought the matter involving Star India and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), be referred to a third judge as the two judge bench hearing the matter could not reach consensus. 
“Since we have not been able to agree, the writ petitions may be placed before a third judge. Since the Chief Justice has delivered the dissenting judgment, the matter may be placed before the next available judge in order of seniority for nomination of the judge before whom the matter may be placed,” reads the order. 
However, since the case in Madras High Court was heard by the chief justice himself, the case is now expected to go back to the Supreme Court.

While referring the case back, the Madras chief justice noted that since he is unable to agree with the conclusion of M.Sundar, J. (the other judge) he would like to refer the case back. Justice M Sundar J in his opinion has recommended that the provisions of the impugned Regulation and the impugned Tariff Order are not in conformity with the TRAI Act.

“In my view, the impugned provisions neither touch upon the content of programmes of broadcasters, nor are liable to be struck down. However, the clause putting cap of 15% to the discount on the MRP of a bouquet is arbitrary. The said provision is, in my view, not enforceable. In my considered view, the challenge to the impugned regulation and the impugned tariff order fail,” chief justice added.

When contacted for more clarity, industry sources sought time to respond as most offices across Delhi and Mumbai were closed on Friday on account of Holi.

The court order has come on the writ petitions filed by Star TV against TRAI’s orders asking broadcasters that channels when given in bouquets should not be a mix of pay channels and free to air channels. In other words, when channels are offered in a bouquet, one bouquet should either contain pay channels only or free to air channels only. One more restriction is when channels are offered in a bouquet, the high definition and standard definition formats of the same channel should not be in the same bouquet. Said regulations and said tariff order, particularly, impugned clauses further mandate that a bouquet (of pay channels, obviously) should not contain any pay channel where the Maximum Retail Price ('MRP' for brevity) is more than Rs.19/-.

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