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TDSAT orders GTPL Hathway to clear dues, Taj not to disconnect
MUMBAI: Multi-system operator (MSO) GTPL Hathway and its joint venture (JV) partners have been directed by the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to pay Rs 63 crore (Rs 630 million) as dues to Taj Television, the distribution arm of ZEEL.
Taj has been directed not to give effect to its disconnection notice subject to the MSO and its partners adhering to the payment schedule. The payment will have to be made in five tranches.
The tribunal has directed ZEEL and Zee Media to pay the carriage fee amounting to Rs 22 crore (Rs 220 million) to the MSO on or before 15 April.
The tribunal also made it clear that the last payment of Rs 11 crore (Rs 110 million) must come from the GTPL–Hathway JVs and that this will be subject to the reconciliation of accounts between the parties by 20 March.
The balance dues after reconciliation of accounts, which may be Rs 11 crore or a little more or less, must be cleared by 31 March. The MSO has been directed to facilitate the payment of the last instalment by its JVs to the respondent and ensure that the payments are finally made by 31 March.
The monthly subscription for the months of February and March 2016 for DAS networks other than DL GTPL CABLE NET, VAJI Communications and GTPL Hathway, and the subscription for March 2016 for non-DAS will have to be cleared by 25 April.
The tribunal said that the payments in terms of the above order will be on-account and without prejudice to the rights and contentions of the parties.
Taj Television counsel Tejveer Bhatia has been directed to file the reply within three weeks. Rejoinder, if any, may be filed within two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the reply.
The matter has been put up before the registrar’s court on 7 April for getting the pleadings completed.
GTPL Hathway and its JVs had filed the petitions against disconnection notices dated 13 and 14 February issued by Taj. The disconnection notices were issued on the grounds of non-payment of monthly subscription fee and non-execution of the fresh agreements.
Bhatia contended that Taj’s cumulative dues against GTPL Hathway (both in DAS and non-DAS) areas amount to Rs 66 crore (Rs 660 million) as on 12 February.
GTPL Hathway counsel Jayant Mehta argued that the MSO was entitled to carriage fee from ZEEL and Zee Media and that the dues of its carriage fee against the two respondents amounted to approximately Rs 25 crore (Rs 250 million).
Mehta further argued that the agreement was based on incremental tariff that was recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) but which was later set aside by the tribunal and, on that score also, the MSO is entitled to adjustment of Rs 11 crore against the dues claimed by the distributor.
Taj counsel submitted that as stipulated in the interconnection agreement between the parties, the dues of subscription fee are payable independent of any adjustments, including any adjustment against carriage fee which was the subject of a separate agreement between the MSO and ZEEL/Zee Media. In any event, the agreement relating to carriage fee has expired.
Mehta, however, pointed out that there was an email on record in which ZEEL/Zee Media had requested the MSO to carry on their channels on the same terms and conditions as stipulated in the previous agreement.
In course of submissions, however, it transpired that the dues of carriage fee claimed by the MSO may came down to Rs 22 crore (Rs 220 million) and similarly the subscription dues of ZEEL against the petitioner might come down to Rs 63 crore (Rs 630 million).