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Delhi HC impleads UoI through MIB as party respondent in ad cap case

The Delhi High Court has impleaded the Union of India (UOI) through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) as a party respondent in the ad cap case. The proceedings in the matters were conducted recently through video conferencing.

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The petitioners – news, music, and regional broadcasters – had filed an application seeking impleadment of UoI through MIB as a party respondent. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) remains the respondent no. 1.

Having heard the learned counsel for both sides and looking to the facts and circumstances of the case, the division bench of Chief Justice Dhirubhai Naranbhai Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh allowed the application while concurring with the view that UoI is a necessary party. Accordingly, UoI has been impleaded as respondent no. 2.

The application has been preferred by the broadcasters seeking amendment of the writ petition to challenge Rule 7 (11) of the Cable Television Networks Rules which says that “No programme shall carry advertisements exceeding twelve minutes per hour, which may include up to ten minutes per hour of commercial advertisements, and up to two minutes per hour of a channel’s self-promotional programmes”.

Having heard the learned counsel for petitioners and looking at the facts of the case, the HC allowed proposed amendments in the writ petition. The amended writ petition filed along with this application was also taken on record. It also asked for a copy of the amended petition to be supplied to the respondents.

Further, B4U Networks also filed an application seeking substitution of Petitioner No. 2 – Sandeep Gupta. Looking to the facts of the case, as referred to in the memo of this application petitioner No. 2 – Sandeep Gupta has been substituted by Santosh Garg.

In 2013, the 12-minute ad cap notified by the TRAI was challenged by news, music, and regional broadcasters in the Delhi High Court in 2013. The TRAI had amended the Standard of Quality of Service by capping ad duration at 12-minutes in a clock hour on news as well as non-news channels. The 12-minutes included 10 minutes of commercials and two minutes of self-promotion.

The matter first went to Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) where it was extensively heard. As the tribunal was preparing to proclaim its judgement in the matter, the Supreme Court in a dispute between BSNL vs TRAI ruled that the TDSAT doesn’t have the jurisdiction to entertain petitions challenging TRAI regulations.

The broadcasters immediately moved the Delhi High Court and secured an interim stay. The HC directed TRAI not to take coercive action against the petitioners. It also directed the petitioners to submit weekly reports on the duration of ads aired during prime-time in a prescribed format to TRAI. Exchange4Media

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