New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Friday sought response from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) over a challenge to its tariff framework for pricing and packaging of TV channels offered to subscribers.

The court was hearing separate pleas by direct-to-home platforms Bharti Telemedia Ltd-owned Airtel Digital TV, and Tata Sky Ltd, challenging the validity of the tariff regulations issued by the telecom regulator.

A bench headed by acting chief justice Gita Mittal said that the court was not inclined to issue an interim order at this point. It said, however, that both the pleas would be heard together as they were similar in nature.

Trai had released the draft order in October 2016 and the final order was notified in March 2017. It was implemented on 2 May.

The counsel for Tata Sky told the court that Trai’s regulations were “excessive, without jurisdiction and in violation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997". DTH operators also argued that prices of channels could not be fixed by broadcasters.

Up until now, distribution platform owners like DTH operators and cable networks had an upper hand in deciding the prices of the channels.

In the new tariff order, Trai has asked the broadcasters to fix and declare channel rates to the consumers. Subscribers will be able to access 100 free-to-air channels for Rs130 plus taxes and will have to pay extra for pay TV channels. However, subscribers can opt for any number of pay TV channels.

Apart from DTH platforms, the order has also drawn flak from television broadcasters and broadcasting associations. Star India Pvt Ltd and its subsidiary, Vijay Television Pvt Ltd, had filed a petition in the Madras high court in December on the grounds that the tariff regulations stood in conflict with the Copyright Act, 1957.

Subsequently, the tariff order was stayed by the Supreme court in May, following a petition by Star India and Vijay television. The case is due for hearing in Madras high court on 12 June on a day-to-day basis.

The case will be heard next in July in the Delhi high court.

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