NTO 2.0 hearing back on cards in Bombay HC after TV18 and Zee challenge 24th July TRAI directive

The impasse over the implementation of New Tariff Order (NTO) 2.0 is all set to continue between the broadcasters and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) after TV18 Broadcast Limited and Zee Entertainment moved the Bombay High Court challenging the July 24th directive from the broadcasting watchdog which mandated compliance from the broadcasters by publishing their revised Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) by 10th August.

NTO 2.0 hearing back on cards in Bombay HC after TV18 and ZEE challenge 24th July TRAI directive

TV18 Broadcast Limited and Zee Entertainment had separately moved applications in the Bombay High Court challenging the 24th July directive which was to be initially heard on 6th August. Bombay High Court however put back all hearings scheduled to be heard from 6th August to 7th August due to heavy rains in Mumbai which led to an acute shortage of staff that couldn’t reach the court due to lack of train service.

A bench of Justices S C Gupte and Abhay Ahuja heard the pleas of Zee Entertainment and TV18 yesterday. While it is yet not known as to what transpired in the ZEE case, a source close to the development in the TV18 case stated that the matter just got adjourned to place the matter before the earlier bench of Justices AA Sayed and Anuja Prabhudesai who had heard the matter and reserved it for order.

TRAI’s advocate said that till that time they will not take any coercive action. The date of hearing before the earlier bench is not yet fixed. The source added that the exact date would be known only after the constitution of the bench by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court.

Although NTO 2.0 has been challenged in multiple High Courts neither of the broadcasters has as of now managed to get an interim stay. Bombay High Court was expected to pronounce its judgment sooner than later after having reserved the matter for order on 4th March, however, with COVID-19 induced lockdown following the judgment never came and the broadcasters on the other hands kept creating a regulatory vacuum and wreaked havoc with their moves since January 2020 which forced TRAI to come out with its directive on the implementation of NTO 2.0 by the broadcasters.

With the hearing set to happen next week, the 10th August deadline will remain unfulfilled with only five broadcasters namely Mavis SatcomCSL InfomediaIN10 MediaOdisha TV, and Lex Sportel Vision as of today publishing their RIOs in line with NTO 2.0. As to how long the matter drags in front of the Bombay High Court remains to be seen.

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