SC to decide on broadcast regulator's reach

The Supreme Court admitted TRAI's appeal and stayed sectoral tribunal TDSAT's March 10 order that said the regulator does not have the authority to adjudicate in disputes between service providers.

"Appeal admitted... In the meanwhile, the operation of the impugned order shall remain stayed," a bench comprising Justice B Sudershan Reddy and Justice S S Nijjar said last week.

TRAI was represented by Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati and advocate Sanjay Kapoor in this matter.

Earlier, passing an order on the petition filed by Polimer Cable Network, a Salem-based MSO, the tribunal said that TRAI does not have any power to pass directions and issue show cause notices on the contractual matters between them.

"TRAI had no jurisdiction to issue the impugned direction. The consequential show cause notices issued by it, must be held to be illegal and without jurisdiction," a TDSAT bench headed by Justice S B Sinha had said.

The TDSAT had said that when a when a party to the contract violates the provisions TRAI's regulations, it, in relation to the performance thereof, violates the terms of the contract and not the regulations per se, in the event a dispute arises in relation thereto.

"The effect of violation of a regulation which became a part of the contract would be required to be determined by a competent authority (TDSAT). A direction in other words, should not emanate out of any adjudication thereof by TRAI," the tribunal said, adding that under section 14 of the TRAI Act it has power to adjudicate disputes not the regulator.

"Section 14 of the Act confers power upon this Tribunal to adjudicate on a dispute between one service provider and the other. The jurisdiction of this Tribunal is of wide amplitude... TRAI is a statutory authority. It must therefore, exercise its jurisdiction within the four corners of the Act," the tribunal said further.

Passing a direction on October, 2008 TRAI had directed Polimer Cable Network to restore connection to five MSOs within 10 days.

Following it, MSO approached TDSAT contending that TRAI has no jurisdiction to adjudicate a private dispute between them and its direction was illegal.

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