My first hearing of it was watching the Voyager two-parter when the ship encountered the Nova-class in the Delta Quadrant and Janeway made a point of telling John Savage "Well, I'm in charge cause that's the rule and my Intrepid beats your Nova." But you could be right. I haven't seen every ep of TNG. Doesn't matter, cause it doesn't change two things: 1) The regulation is still STUPID. 2) Voyager is the source of lots of stupidity.