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Relief for DTH ops as TDSAT lists licence fee case for 6 May

MUMBAI: In a major relief to the direct-to-home (DTH) operators, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has listed the licence fee case for 6 May.

The government has told the tribunal that it will not press the DTH operators with the licence fee demand in the interim.

The government will have to file its reply within three weeks. The petitioners will get an additional week to file their rejoinders.

As reported first by TelevisionPost.com, Reliance Big TV and Tata Sky had yesterday challenged the government’s licence fee demand in the TDSAT.

Sun Direct had also filed an application in the matter. 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 (Rs 20.66 billion).

While the order granted on Tata Sky’s petition stands, the one given to Reliance Digital TV has been reversed by the tribunal.

The order on Reliance Digital TV was reversed after the tribunal realised that the clause 3.1.1 of the licence in Reliance’s case is materially different from the corresponding clause in the licence that was granted to Tata Sky.

The tribunal, therefore, contended that relief cannot be granted to Reliance Digital TV on that basis.

In effect, only Tata Sky has got interim relief as the TDSAT has posted Reliance Digital TV’s petition along with Sun Direct’s application for hearing tomorrow.

The government had generated licence fee demands based on Clause 3.1.1 which defines gross revenue.

“In the post lunch session, while hearing some other connected matters (which are listed on special mentioning having regard to their urgency), it transpires that there is substantial and material difference in the facts of this case and the facts of Petition No. 196 of 2014.

“The difference lies in that clause 3.1.1 of the licence in the present case is materially different from the corresponding clause in the licence that was granted to Tata Sky. We regret this material difference was not pointed out to us when the case was taken up for preliminary hearing,” the tribunal said in its interim order.

(Report was updated at 7.30 pm to incorporate changes in the TDSAT order with respect to Reliance Digital TV)

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Three DTH ops take govt to TDSAT over licence fee issue