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TRAI can price channels

SC dismisses Star India's plea, gives a go ahead to the telecom regulator to regulate broadcasting and cable services, reports Bhadra Sinha.

business Updated: Jan 03, 2008 22:02 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave a go ahead to the Telecom Regulator, TRAI, to regulate broadcasting and cable services. Dismissing Star India's petition challenging the Delhi high court order that rejected the company's plea to declare a proviso of the TRAI Act as ultra vires, a bench comprising Justices HK Sema and Markandeya Katju said it will not question the decision of the Parliament.

The bench added: "We have delivered a judgment on judicial activism and we are again reiterating that we must have respect for the Parliament. We should not interfere in their decision."

Senior advocate Fali Nariman, however, tried to impress upon the court by claiming that the proviso under challenge was illegal because it was introduced later and was not a part of the original Act. The proviso was added to the amended Act in January 2004. Nariman argued that the amendment amounted to re-writing the Act.

The bench, however, dismissed Nariman's contention and said: "The proviso has different connotations. You cannot challenge it as it is a part of the Act ratified by the Parliament."

Star India had approached the Supreme Court against the amendment to the TRAI Act that empowered the government to bring broadcasting services within the ambit of TRAI. The court, however, decided there was "no conflict" in allowing TRAI to regulate broadcasting services as well.

Not satisfied with Nariman's submissions, the bench said: "There does not seem any conflict between the original Act and the proviso introduced in it after amendment. The proviso says that the Centre can bring other services within the ambit of Telecom Act and the government has issued the notification for regulating broadcasting services by TRAI. It is very simple." Without expressing any opinion on the maintainability of the petition, the bench dismissed the petition.

The Delhi high court had on July 9, 2007 dismissed the petitions of Star India and Set Discovery challenging the authority of TRAI to regulate the broadcasting sector.

The court had also held that TRAI Act will regulate the broadcasting sector along with telecommunication till the government enacts a Broadcasting Act or a Convergence Bill to regulate telegraph, telecom and the broadcasting sector.