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TDSAT orders probe into STB-swapping case filed by Siti Cable’s JV company

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has ordered a probe into the allegations made by Patna-based Siti Maurya Cable Network that seven of its local cable operators (LCOs) have been trying to migrate to another multi-system operator (MSO) without following proper procedures.

Siti Maurya Cable, a joint venture between Siti Cable and Maurya Diginet, has alleged that the LCOs have not given statutory notices, cleared the outstanding dues or returned the MSO’s set-top boxes (STBs).

The TDSAT bench headed by chairman justice Aftab Alam and members Kuldip Singh and BB Srivastava clubbed the seven petitions and appointed Diggaj Pathak as the advocate commissioner to probe into the matter.

Pathak will take the list of subscribers from DK Classic, one of the seven LCOs. After being given the list, he will go to Patna unannounced and intimate the two sides about his arrival. Then he will, along with the representatives of Siti Maurya and the LCO, make random visits to some of the subscribers to see whether or not the STBs are functional at their places.

In case the MSO’s STBs at the subscribers’ place are found to be switched off, Pathak will find out since when this has happened. He will also find out whether the switch off was done from Siti Maurya’s headend or the LCO’s.

Pathal will submit his report to the tribunal by 28 August. The hearing will take place on 3 September.

Earlier, Siti Maurya counsel submitted that in petition No. 355 (C) of 2015, some of the STBs given to the LCO (DK Classic) were switched off and swapped by the boxes of some other MSO. The LCO had also kept operational some other STBs given by Siti Maurya.

TDSAT noted that the LCOs are yet to file reply in these petitions. However, counsel Sharath Sampath, appearing on behalf of respondents, orally refuted the statements made by Siti Maurya.

Sampath submitted that if the LCOs’ share in the carriage fee is taken into account, there will be no dues payable to the MSO. In fact, the LCOs will be entitled to receive some payments from Siti Maurya.

He said that the LCOs did not migrate to another MSO of their own volition and initiative. It was Siti Maurya who disconnected the supply of its signals to the LCO, compelling them to take signals from some other MSO.

However, Siti Maurya’s counsel stated that in case the MSO disconnected the supply of signals, it would not be possible that some of the STBs given to DK Classic would still be functional while some others are switched off. Counsel TVS Bhatia added that the truth may be ascertained by a ground inspection by an advocate commissioner appointed by the tribunal.

TDSAT named Pathak as advocate commissioner. Pathak will be paid an honorarium of Rs 15,000 per day, apart from actual expanses, which will be shared equally by both sides.