The Delhi High Court Friday sought the Centre’s response on a PIL seeking refund of the excess subscription fees that TV broadcasters had collected in 2014-15 on the basis of two Trai tariff orders which were later set aside by TDSAT.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar issued notice to the Centre and Trai seeking their response on the issues raised in the plea claimed that the amounts collected by the broadcasters were never refunded.
The petition by an NGO, Justice for Rights Foundation, has said that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had in 2014 and 2015 issued the 11th and 13th tariff amendment orders (TAOs) allowing broadcasters to hike subscription fees by 15 per cent and 12.5 per cent.
The plea, filed through advocate Harpreet Singh Hora, has contended that subsequently the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had by an interim order directed the broadcasters to maintain a separate account with regard to the collection of the hiked fees on the basis of the tariff orders.
Thereafter, in April 2015, TDSAT set aside the orders and remanded the matter back to Trai for a fresh look, the petition said.
It further said that when the tribunal’s order was challenged in the Supreme Court, it refused to interfere with the order of remand, but directed not to insist on the refund of the amount collected by the broadcasters till the matter was finally adjudicated.
In March 2019, Trai finally adjudicated the matter and issued a fresh tariff order which made all the consumers eligible for refund/ adjustment of the excess money collected based on the 11th and 13th TAOs, the plea has contended.
However, neither the Centre nor Trai has initiated any process for refund or adjustment of the amounts collected, the NGO has contended in its plea.
It has alleged that the amounts collected on the basis of the two tariff orders would run into thousands of crores and contended that the money should be accounted and brought back into the system.
Apart from seeking refund of the money, the petition has sought calling for information as well as initiation of investigation in relation to the amounts collected on the basis of the two tariff orders of 2014 and 2015.
The NGO has also sought action against service providers who have allegedly “stashed” the amounts collected and are not furnishing information about it.―Business Standard