Cable TV Network Rules: MIB Introduces Key Amendments

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has introduced significant changes to the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, to streamline Multi-System Operator (MSO) registration processes and promote internet accessibility, particularly in remote areas. The amendments are in alignment with the government’s commitment to ease of doing business, making the sector more appealing to foreign investment.

The key changes introduced in the MSO registration rules are as follows: –

  • Online Registration and Renewal

    MSOs must apply for registration or renewal online through the Broadcast Seva Portal of the Ministry, simplifying the application process.

  • Extended Validity

    MSO registrations will now be granted or renewed for a substantial period of ten years, enhancing operational stability.

  • Renewal Fee

    A processing fee of Rs. 1 lakh is applicable for the renewal of MSO registration.

  • Renewal Window

    To ensure service continuity, the application for renewal must be submitted within a window of seven to two months before the current registration expires.

  • Infrastructure Sharing for Internet Access

    An important addition to the rules is the provision for cable operators to share infrastructure with broadband service providers. This measure carries dual benefits; it enhances internet penetration and promotes efficient resource utilization, ultimately reducing the need for additional broadband infrastructure.

  • Support Available

    MSOs with registrations expiring within seven months can apply online via the Broadcast Seva Portal. A helpline number is available for assistance, and inquiries can be directed to the email ID specified.



Govt Unveils R&D Scheme For Pharma-MedTech Sector

The Central Government has unveiled a scheme for the promotion of research and innovation in the pharma-medtech sector, with an allocation of Rs.5,000 Cr.

The scheme was notified by the Department of Pharmaceuticals on August 17, 2023. It envisages the setting up of seven Centres of Excellence at NIPERs and providing financial assistance to startups, MSMEs, etc. for conducting research in areas such as new chemical entities, complex generics including biosimilars, medical devices, stem cell therapy, orphan drugs, anti-microbial resistance etc. The press release dated September 26, 2023, specifies that the scheme would facilitate effective collaboration between the private sector and government institutes, help in develop affordable medicines and other solutions, and also increase the sector’s revenue and create employment opportunities.

At the launch event, Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare and Minister of Chemical and Fertilizer, highlighted that strengthening the country’s research and development infrastructure was the only way to achieve self-reliance in pharmaceuticals and medical devices. He stated that this would enhance access to life-saving medicines and drugs. He added, “We need to make policies, new products and new research according to the needs of our country and the world, in consultation with industries and academia. We should become so independent that we should not be dependent on anyone for our critical needs.”


FCRA Annual Return: Movable & Immovable Assets to be Declared

On September 22, 2023, the Ministry of Home Affairs notified the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2023 requiring disclosure of movable and immovable assets acquired through foreign contribution in the FCRA annual return.

As per Rule 17 of the 2011 Rules, an online report in Form FC-4 is required to be filed by every person who receives foreign contributions under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010. Earlier, with respect to the assets purchased through foreign contribution, the rules only provided for disclosure of the details pertaining to the purchase of fresh assets including the objective, cost, and name of the project.

To avoid ambiguity, the changes introduced through the amendment rules clearly specify that apart from this, the creation of movable assets and acquisition of immovable properties would also be covered under the Form. I.e., if the foreign contribution is utilised to purchase or create movable assets or acquire immovable properties as of 31st March of the financial year, then the details thereof must be included in the said Form.


NMC Global Recognition: Indian Medicos Can Now Practice Abroad

The National Medical Commission (NMC) has received the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) recognition status, thereby enabling Indian medical graduates to pursue postgraduate studies and practice abroad. The recognition will be valid for a period of 10 years.

This global recognition is expected to not only improve the reputation of Indian medical colleges and professionals but also to promote innovation in medical education and facilitate academic collaborations, exchanges, etc.

In the press release dated September 20, 2023, it is stated that such an accreditation will enable Indian students to pursue PG training and practice in other countries that require WFME recognition, which include the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. They will also be eligible to apply for the Education Commission on Foreign Medical Education and the United States Medical Licensing Examination. It is said that an official award letter and a certificate will also be provided by the Federation in the days to come.

Further, the existing medical colleges in India will become WFME accredited and the new medical colleges that will be set up in the coming 10 years will automatically become WFME accredited.


Self-Regulatory Mechanism for News Channels to be Strengthened

In an order dated September 18, 2023, the Supreme Court in the case of News Broadcasters Association v. Union of India & Ors. [SLP(C) Nos. 17959-17960/2023] expressed the need to strengthen the self-regulatory mechanisms for news channels. Accepting the request of the petitioners, the Court granted four weeks’ time for preparing and presenting the proposed regulations before the Court.

Referring to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the respondents submitted that the Central Government had a mechanism in place which operated at three tiers, the first being self-regulation.

The Court questioned the effectiveness of the current self-regulatory mechanism which provides for the imposition of a Rs. 1 Lakh fine on the channels. Terming it as lenient, the Court specified that it needed “some teeth”. The Division Bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice J B Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra held that self-regulation “needs to be tightened up to bring some kind of discipline”.

However, the Court clarified that it did not intend to impose any pre-censorship or post-censorship on the media. With this, the Court granted four weeks’ time to formulate and present the proposed regulations.

The matter will be heard next on October 20, 2023.


Govt Should Consider Setting Age Limit for Using Social Media: HC

While hearing a writ appeal filed by X Corp concerning certain blocking orders, the Karnataka High Court remarked that the Central Government should consider setting an age limit for the use of social media.[1]

Pointing out that school-going children are addicted to social media, Justice G Narendar opined that an age limit should be put in place, “as in the Excise rules”. He further stated, “When a user registers, he will have to give some material, just like in online gaming where a person not having Aadhar etc. cannot join. Why don’t you extend it here also? It will be a boon”.

Earlier, X Corp had approached the Single Judge Bench of the Karnataka High Court, challenging the blocking orders issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. The blocking orders were issued between February 2, 2021, and February 28, 2022. Dismissing the plea, the Court imposed a cost of Rs. 50 Lakh. On appeal, the order passed by the Single Judge Bench was stayed, and X Corp was directed to deposit Rs. 25 Lakh.

When the interlocutory applications were taken up for consideration yesterday, X Corp requested that the blocking orders be reconsidered by the Central Government. In this regard, the Court has sought the Centre’s response.

The matter will be heard next on September 27, 2023.

[1] X Corp. v. Union of India & Ors. (WA 895/2023)


IRDAI Sets Up Standing Committee on Cyber Security

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has set up an inter-disciplinary standing committee on cyber security. The committee is expected to regularly review the threats inherent in the existing or emerging technologies and suggest appropriate changes to the IRDAI Information and Cyber Security Framework to further strengthen the insurance industry’s cybersecurity posture and resilience.

This decision was taken pursuant to the release of the IRDAI Information and Cyber Security Guidelines dated April 24, 2023. The said guidelines sought to ensure the security of the organisation’s information assets through the effective implementation of up-to-date security mechanisms. The Office Order dated September 14, 2023, specifies that the suggestions received from the Regulated Entities (REs) in the implementation of the 2023 guidelines will also be considered by the committee for suggesting appropriate changes in the current framework.

The standing committee will consist of a chairperson, eight members and a convener. If necessary, the committee may invite external members to examine specific issues or suggestions.


Telcos to Refund Overcharged Amount to Consumers: TRAI

On September 11, 2023, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released the Quality of Service (Code of Practice for Metering and Billing Accuracy) Regulations, 2023, which stipulate that telecom service providers must refund overcharged amounts within three months of audit findings. The said regulations are slated to become operative from April 1, 2024.

The regulations aim to strike a harmonious balance between safeguarding subscriber rights and minimising the compliance burdens placed upon service providers, thereby facilitating a more conducive environment for conducting business.

One of the key differences between the 2006 Regulations and the new regulations is that the former applied selectively to specific service providers, whereas the latter casts a broader net, encompassing all service providers while introducing more lucid licensing prerequisites. In stark contrast to its predecessor, the 2023 Regulations focus on audit and compliance.

Some of the other notable changes introduced under the new regulations are as follows: –

  • Audit Frequency Reduction – The audit frequency for licensed service areas (LSAs) has been reduced, easing the burden of audits on telecom companies, from a quarterly requirement to an annual one.
  • Broadened Audit Scope – The revised standards encompass a broader spectrum of tariff offerings, including international roaming, even for telecom companies with modest subscriber bases, a departure from previous regulations.
  • Auditor Provisions and Time Restriction – The new regulations eliminate self-evaluation provisions for auditors and extend the time limit for providing raw Call Detail Records (CDRs) from 15 to 30 days.
  • Record Retention Period – To enhance business efficiency and ensure regulatory compliance, the new regulations introduce a record retention period of one year.
  • Annual Audits – Telecom providers are mandated to undergo annual metering and billing system audits per the 2023 quality of service requirements.
  • Involvement of TRAI-Notified Auditors – The performance of these audits is entrusted to auditors notified by TRAI, signifying TRAI’s active participation in their selection and approval.
  • Monetary Penalties for Non-Compliance – Failure to adhere to audit requirements or inability to submit audit reports can result in monetary penalties of up to Rs. 50 lakhs per report for telecom businesses.
  • Submission of Annual Audit Schedule – Telecom businesses must furnish an annual audit schedule to TRAI, identifying the billing systems and LSAs earmarked for audit.
  • Reporting Overcharging – The provisions require consumers to report instances of overcharging to the service provider in writing within a week to facilitate prompt corrective action.
  • Auditor Reporting Delays – Telecom companies are shielded from punitive measures for auditor-induced delays in sharing audit details, as the onus for timely reporting rests squarely with the auditors.


PMLA Amendment Rules: Threshold for Beneficial Ownership Lowered to 10%

On September 4, 2023, the Ministry of Finance notified the Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules, 2023 bringing about major changes pertaining to beneficial ownership in partnership firms, trustee disclosures, etc. thereby widening its ambit.

The changes under the amendment rules are as follows: –

  • Only officers at the management level can be designated by reporting entities as Principal Officers.
  • If the client is a partnership firm, the natural person who owns more than 10% of capital or profits in the partnership, or exercises control through other means would be the beneficial owner for the purposes of due diligence by reporting entities. Here, “control” would include the right to control the management or policy decision. Earlier, the threshold for determining beneficial ownership in a partnership firm was set at 15% of capital or profits in the partnership.
  • When it comes to trusts, the reporting entities would be required to make sure that the trustees disclose their status at the time of commencement of an account-based relationship or when carrying out transactions of an amount equal to or exceeding INR 50,000, or any international money transfer operations.
  • The records of the identity of clients must be maintained by the reporting entities, including the “result of any analysis undertaken” as per client due diligence (under Rule 9) or maintenance of transaction records (under Rule 3).


TRAI Recommends No License Fee for Telecom Infrastructure Providers

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has suggested that the government create new permits for digital infrastructure service providers without charging the companies a license fee. In a proposal titled “Introduction of Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Provider (DCIP) Authorization under Unified License”, TRAI suggested that entities registered under the proposed license should be able to offer telecom operators both active and passive infrastructures, excluding core network elements and spectrum.

The Authority suggested naming the new type of licence as “Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Provider (DCIP) Licence.” They proposed a Rs 2 lakh entry charge and a Rs 15,000 application processing fee for DCIP However, TRAI stated that there should be no licence fee applicable to DCIP authorization.

This recommendation comes after the discontinuation of Infrastructure Provider II licenses in December These licenses required companies to pay a licence fee for providing infrastructure, which was opposed by telecom tower companies. Currently, entities that own and operate active network elements are required to pay an 8 per cent licence fee.

TRAI has also recommended that the proposed DCIP licence should not exist as an independent licence, but rather be considered as an authorization within a Unified Licence framework. The government’s objective in eliminating the licence fee for telecom infrastructure providers is to promote the development of digital connectivity infrastructure in India.