SC judgement forces TDSAT to dismiss petitions on ad cap

TDSAT has dismissed petitions filed by News Broadcasters Association and entertainment channels against TRAI's 12-minute per hour cap on ads, following an order by Supreme Court which said the tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear any challenge to the regulation framed by the sectoral regulator.

The Supreme Court on December 6 ruled that TDSAT (Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal) has no jurisdiction to hear against regulation framed by TRAI.

"In the judgement the Supreme Court has definitively held that in exercise of the power vested in it under section 14(b) of the Telecom Regulatory Authority Act, 1997, the TDSAT does not have the jurisdiction to entertain challenges to the regulations framed by the Authority under Section 36 of the Act," said a TDSAT bench headed by its Chairman Justice Aftab Alam last week.

"In view of the decision of the Supreme Court, all these appeals are held to be not maintainable and dismissed accordingly," it added.

Section 36 of the act gives the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) power to make regulations and rules to carry out its purpose in the telecom and broadcast sector.

TRAI had come out with Quality of Service (QoS) regulation, which mandates channels to show not more than 12 minute of ad and promotional content per hour.

Earlier, the tribunal had directed the regulator not to take any coercive action against the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), which has presently 26 leading news and current affairs broadcasting companies, which run 53 news and current affairs channels, as its members.

Although, Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), a umbrella body of channels, withdrew its petition against the TRAI order, individual broadcasters and channels had approached the tribunal.

The TDSAT had concluded its hearing on the issue but was yet to issue a final order when the order of the apex court came.

"The tribunal was engaged in preparing the judgement and it was able to write the judgement to a large extent but in the meanwhile, the decision of the Supreme Court has come on December 6, 2013," the tribunal said.

However, the tribunal left the option open for the NBA and other broadcasters to approach courts against TRAI's regulation.

"It would be open to the appellants to seek their remedies in accordance with law and as pointed out in the judgement of the Supreme Court," the tribunal said.

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