The Delhi High Court has sought response from the Centre and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on a PIL demanding refund of excess subscription fee running into thousands of crores of Rupees collected and misappropriated by broadcasters on the basis of illegal tariff orders.
A bench headed by Chief Justice D N Patel issued notice on a PIL moved by NGO 'Justice for Rights Foundation' through its President Satyam Singh Rajput alleging that the service providers collected excess subscription fee pursuant to two tariff orders passed I n year 2014 and 2015 allowing 15 per cent and 12.5 per cent increase in tariff only to be set aside by Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
The petition, filed through advocate Harpreet Singh Hora, said even as the two tariff orders were set aside, the broadcasters never refunded the excess subscription fee to the consumers and as revealed by an RTI response, no separate accounts were maintained for the amount so collected.
The Plea also calls for action against service providers indulging in illegal practices of stashing public money and not furnishing the information besides a court-monitored probe into the said illegal activities of the broadcasters.
The PIL said Telecommunication (Broadcasting & Cable) Services (Second) Tariff (Eleventh Amendment) Order, 2014, referred to as 11 th TAO came into effect allowing for 15% increase in tariff to be collected from subscribers as subscription fee.
The TDSAT directed all the stake-holders to maintain a separate account with regard to the collection on the basis of this T.A.O., so that the individual subscribers making an excess payment in terms of the T.A.O. could be entitled to adjustment for the succeeding month(s).
Thereafter, Telecommunication (Broadcasting & Cable) Services (Second) Tariff (Thirteenth Amendment) Order, 2014 came into effect allowing for 12.5% increase in tariff to be collected from subscribers as subscription fee.
On April 28, 2015, TDSAT set aside the amendments in the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Second) Tariff Order 2014, the Eleventh T.A.O and the Thirteenth T.A.O. having considered them untenable and remanded the matter to TRAI to have a fresh look.
On August 8, 2015, the Supreme Court also refused to interfere with the order passed by TDSAT.
Despite the tariff orders being set aside and TDSAT ordering maintenance of separate accounts, the broadcasters have not done the same, says the petition.
Advocate Hora says that the TRAI in response to their representation said it did not have any role to play in this case even wen as per section 11 and 12 of TRAI Act, the TRAI has to call for information, conduct investigation and initiate process of refund.
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