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TDSAT directs Sahara TV Network to clear IMCL’s carriage fee dues

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has directed Sahara India TV Network to clear carriage fees it owes to multi-system operator (MSO) IndusInd Media & Communications Ltd (IMCL). This amounts to Rs 8.7 million at 9 per cent interest per annum till the payment of the said amount.

IMCL had filed a recovery petition for Rs 44.3 million from Sahara TV Network. The parties had entered into an agreement for the carriage of general entertainment channel (GEC) Sahara One and Hindi movie channel Filmy in S band. Sahara had committed to pay Rs 75 million per annum plus service tax at the applicable rates.

This amount was to be paid in equal monthly instalments of Rs 6.25 million each payable by or before 25 day of the month immediately following the month in which the payment becomes due. IMCL, in turn, was required to pay monthly subscription amount of Rs 416,667 exclusive of taxes to Sahara.

The broadcaster later reworked the agreement whereby placement of Sahara One was upgraded from S band to Prime band. Consequently, the carriage fee was increased from Rs 75 million to Rs 90 million exclusive of service tax.

IMCL’s contention is that Sahara TV Network has not been making payment regularly as per the reworked agreement and therefore it issued a demand notice to pay the outstanding dues, inclusive of interest, amounting to Rs 33.1 million on 31 March 2012 with further interest at 18 per cent per annum till realisation.

As Sahara failed to clear the entire outstanding dues, IMCL issued notices following which the broadcaster made a part payment of Rs 7.9 million. But as the entire amount of outstanding was not cleared, the petitioner filed the recovery petition on 10 September 2012.

During the pendency of the petition, some negotiations were going on between the parties. As per subsequent affidavit filed by IMCL on 29 July 2013, Sahara had made some payment on that account to the MSO.

However, even after adjusting the said payment made by the Sahara, it was mentioned that as per the accounts of IMCL, there is an outstanding of Rs 9.8 million payable on 19 August 2012 which is inclusive of interest up to 10 July 2013.

Sahara TV Network counsel Arjun Natarajan stated that as per an understanding reached between the parties, no interest was payable to the MSO. This was, however, denied by IMCL counsel Vandana Jaisingh.

Natarajan referred to cross-examination of the petitioner’s witness, in which he suggested that the witness was not aware about the waiver of the claim for interest which was agreed by the witness.

However, the tribunal noted that Natarajan could not produce any convincing evidence in support of his contention that the petitioner had agreed to waive interest on delayed payments.

Natarajan further referred to the order of the tribunal dated 2 August 2013, arguing that the only dispute remaining between the parties was with regard to the amount of service tax payable and the issuance of TDS certificate by the respondents to the petitioner.

The tribunal said that it was unable to agree with Natarajan that IMCL had agreed that no other amount was payable. During the course of hearing, Vandana Jaisingh, counsel appearing for the petitioner, was asked to explain the calculation of interest following which the MSO filed a statement of account with calculation of interest.