After hearings, TDSAT found that the grievances which have been highlighted on behalf of the appellant are not really against the tariff order of 2017 which has already mustered judicial scrutiny. It learned that few matters against the tariff order of 2017 are still pending before Delhi High Court. Those matters are directed against the Interconnection Regulations, 2017.
TDSAT also found that grievances of the appellant are in fact adversarial in nature and mainly directed against the Interconnection Regulations, 2017 including the terms of the Standard Interconnection Agreement (SIA). The TDSAT said that in the rejoinder there is no specific reference to any difficulty of the consumers which may be referred to TRAI of further consideration and for issuance of directions if found necessary.
The Order read: “In the aforesaid facts and circumstances, even on considering all the prayers made in this appeal, it is found that no relief is possible to be given to the appellant and the LCOs represented by it by re-examining the validity of tariff order of 2017. The reasons have already been indicated above.”
TDSAT finally allowed the appeal to be withdrawn, as prayed, with the liberty to the MCOSS to seek relief through appropriate proceedings before the Delhi High Court where the matter is said to be pending against some provisions of Tariff Order of 2017 as well as against the Regulations of 2017.
The main grievance of MCOSS is that on account of impugned tariff order the Local Cable Operators (LCOs), who are represented by the petitioner society, have lost their negotiating power and if the MSO does not agree to proposal of the LCOs for a fixed fee or any other ratio of sharing the revenue, the SIA which is part of Interconnection Regulations of 2017 limits the share of LCOs to 45% of the revenue coming from the viewers in case of free-to-air channels (FTA) and 20% only in case of pay channels.
The other grievance is that revenue from advertisement and other charges levied by MSOs is neither being disclosed nor being shared with LOCs because of the Interconnection Regulations being silent about such revenue. Lastly, it has been alleged that during the consultation process for deciding the mode of revenue share under the Interconnection Regulation, 2017 the LCOs were not given the opportunity to present their views and grievances.
The counsel for TRAI has referred to the first order passed in the appeal on 20.03.2019. After taking note of decision referred by the Madras High Court and the Hon’ble Supreme Court in respect of tariff order of 2017, this Tribunal gave same prima facie observations that other prayers were covered by the decisions already rendered and therefore decided to entertain the appeal, for the time being, in respect of prayer no. (d) which is as follows: –
“Issue direction to the respondents not to reduce the role of the Local Cable Operators in relation to their subscribers with regard to implementation of Regulations, 2017 and to issue a direction to broadcasters and MSOs to provide them necessary means and resources to ease out the difficulty of consumers in implementation of New Regulations.”
By that order it was decided to ignore the issue of limitation though it was raised by learned counsel for TRAI and delay was condoned. Prayer for interim relief was rejected and it was observed that it would be in the interest of all concerned if the parties do not treat the appeal as an adversarial litigation.
Following the same line of thoughts, by the order dated 20.05.2019, the other respondents were relieved of the responsibility of filing any reply till the appellant availed the opportunity granted to explain what kind of directions are required to be issued upon the broadcasters and MSOs so that LCOs will be empowered to take care of difficulties of consumers in the wake of implementation of new Regulations.
The appellant was also expected to explain the difficulties of consumers which it had in mind for seeking such directions and empowerment. This was required to be done through a rejoinder affidavit which has been filed.