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Interim relief for all six DTH ops in licence fee case; TDSAT to hear the matter on 6 May
MUMBAI: After Tata Sky and Dish TV, the four other direct-to-home (DTH) operators can also breathe easy as the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has granted them interim relief in the licence fee case and posted the matter for hearing on 6 May.
With this move, the appeals of all six DTH operators will be heard on 6 May. On Thursday, the tribunal had put Dish TV and Tata Sky’s petition for hearing on 6 May.
As in the case of Dish TV and Tata Sky, the government will not press their claim of licence fee with the four DTH operators till the next date of hearing. The government will need to file its reply within three weeks. The petitioners will get an additional week to file their rejoinders.
This means that the six DTH operators will not have to fork out licence fee that amounts to Rs 2,066 crore ( Rs 20.66 billion), at least till 6 May. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) had on 24 March sent notices to the six private DTH operators asking them to pay licence fee totalling Rs 2,066 crore within 15 days.
The MIB had raised the licence fee demand based on Clause 3.1.1 of DTH licences. According to Clause 3.1.1, gross revenue shall be calculated without deduction of taxes and agency commission, on the basis of billing rates, net of discounts to advertisers.
The six DTH operators had moved the TDSAT against the MIB’s upsetting licence fee demand. The operators had challenged the licence fee demand on the ground that the matter is sub judice as there are cases pending in the Supreme Court and the TDSAT.
The DTH operators got interim relief on the ground that Clause 3.1.1 has been challenged before the apex court and is awaiting final disposal. The government counsel, however, argued that while the clause has been challenged in the SC, the same has not been stayed by the court.
The first to move the TDSAT were Tata Sky, Sun Direct and Reliance Digital TV. The three DTH operators had moved the arbitrator on Wednesday while Dish TV, Airtel Digital TV and Videocon d2h had challenged the licence fee demand on Thursday.
While Dish TV and Tata Sky had secured interim relief from the tribunal on Thursday, the case of the remaining four DTH operators was adjourned till Friday. When the matter came up for hearing on Friday, the tribunal decided to club all the cases and put it up for hearing on 6 May.
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