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TDSAT dismisses MSO Manthan’s review application in its dispute with MSM MD

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has dismissed multi-system operator (MSO) Manthan Broadband Services’ application seeking adjustment of its outstanding dues to MSM Media Distribution (MSM MD) to carriage/placement fee to be paid by the TV channel distributor.

The tribunal held that an email could not be construed as a formal placement contract between the two sides on the basis of which the petitioner might claim adjustments of dues of monthly subscription fees. It also ruled out any provision for netting off.

The two parties had failed to renew their agreement upon its expiry on 31 March 2015. The MSO was carrying MSM MD’s channels based on an email but without any agreement.

The MSO had sought a review of the tribunal’s earlier order in which it had directed the TV channel distributor not to give effect to its disconnection notice should the MSO clear the outstanding dues.

The tribunal had directed Manthan to pay Rs 1.5 crore (Rs 15 million) by 25 December 2015, another Rs 1.5 crore (Rs 15 million) 15 days thereafter, and the balance amount after adjusting TDS amount by 31 January 2016.

Manthan counsel Nidhi Mohan Parashar submitted that while determining the liability for payment of dues, the MSO had contended that adjustments might be made for payments that it was expected to receive as placement charges from the distributor.

MSM MD opposed Manthan’s plea on the ground that the two charges fell under two separate agreements and that there was no provision for netting off of the placement charges while making payments of the monthly subscription fees and most importantly the placement agreement had come to end on 31 March 2015.

Accepting MSM MD’s stand, the tribunal observed that the MSO must clear the subscription dues as per old agreement if it wished to receive uninterrupted signals.

It further observed that the MSO could not insist on adjustment of placement fees to licence fee dues, because the two are governed by two separate agreements, which are not even valid as on date.

The MSO challenged the said order passed by the tribunal before the Jharkhand High Court. However, the petition was later withdrawn with liberty to the petitioner to move the application before the tribunal.

Parashar submitted that though it was represented before the tribunal that there was no concluded agreement with regard to the placement of channels, there are emails in which the respondent had asked the petitioner to place the channels in terms of the “deal”.

On hearing Parashar and MSM MD counsel Abhishek Malhotra, the tribunal stated that there was no case for review of the aforesaid orders. The application was dismissed with cost quantified at Rs 5000. The tribunal directed the MSO to file a receipt showing payment of cost to the TDSAT Employees Welfare Society within one month.

The parties have agreed that the technical audit of the MSO’s system would be held on 18 January.

The matter has been put up under the same head on 22 January.