Published on: September 17, 2022 at 23:05 IST
In accordance with an order from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) opening an investigation against three broadcasting companies, Asianet Star Communications, Disney Broadcasting (India) Pvt Ltd, and Star India (petitioners), the Bombay High Court on Friday decided not to exercise its territorial jurisdiction in the petitions filed by these companies. [CCI and related petitions in the case of Asianet Star Communications Private Limited]
Senior attorneys representing the corporations urged the Court to prolong the April 2022 interim injunction instructing the CCI not to pursue any coercive action against three broadcasters and media and entertainment organisations.
The Justices SV Gangapurwala and Madhav Jamdar Bench responded by stating that while they had previously ruled that they were not exercising territorial jurisdiction, they had not previously ruled that they lacked inherent authority to declare previous orders null and void.
After granting the request, the court decided that because the interim injunction had been in effect for almost five months, it should be kept in effect for an additional 10 days, after which the protection would terminate.
The Interim decision further gave the petitioners instructions to, without prejudice and without regard to any potential legal repercussions, provide the documentary information requested in response to the inquiries in furtherance of the order to the Director General of CCI.
On February 28, 2022, CCI issued an order directing its Director General to open an investigation under Section 26 of the Competition Act based on a complaint from ADNPL.
The three petitioners contested this order.
ADNPL argued in its complaint that broadcasters, like the petitioners, must not have discriminatory pricing in commercial contracts with multi-service operators like ADNPL.
ADNPL is in the business of distributing TV channels to customers through local cable operators, primarily in Kerala.
ADNPL cited the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal’s (TDSAT) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) rules in the complaint.
Discriminatory pricing is forbidden by legislation in business agreements with multi-service operators.
According to ADNPL, the petitioners used their dominant position to give a direct competitor large discounts through joint ventures that ostensibly established a reward system.
The petitioners wanted to provide ADNPL’s rival an unfair advantage by getting around the TRAI/TDSAT set-caps or upper limits.
As a result, CCI gave the Director General the mandate to look into the matter and deliver a report within 60 days.
The same ended up being contested in front of the High Court.
CCI’s attorneys contested the petition on the grounds of jurisdiction, arguing that since the entire matter originated in Kerala, the dispute should have been heard there.
ADNPL added that the petitioners were violating the TRAI/TDSAT regulations and harming CCI in order to support CCI’s position. They both argued that the only goal of CCI was data gathering.
The Court decided they would not be using their territorial jurisdiction in this case after carefully considering both arguments.