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TDSAT to hear DTH licence fee case only after SC decides it

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) will hear the direct-to-home (DTH) licence fee case only after the matter is decided by the Supreme Court where it is pending for a long time.

This means that the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) cannot press for its claim of pending licence fee dues from the DTH operators. The ministry had in March 2014 sent notices to six DTH operators to pay pending licence fee dues to the tune of Rs 2,066 crore (Rs 20.66 billion).

The TDSAT said on Tuesday that it would wait for the apex court before hearing the DTH licence fee case.

It is pertinent to note that the DTH operators had challenged the licence fee demand on the ground that the matter is pending before the Supreme Court.

The DTH licence fee case is listed for a March hearing by the Supreme Court.

The MIB had demanded licence fee based on 10 per cent of gross revenue formula, which is a major point of contention between government and the DTH companies.

The DTH operators contend that licence fee should be paid only on subscription revenue and not on allied earnings such as dividend and interest income.

Earlier, the tribunal had agreed to hear the matter independently of the AGR telecom case based on Tata Sky’s plea. In the earlier hearing, the tribunal had decided that the DTH licence fee matter would be heard only after the disposal of the telecom AGR matters.

Even as the matter was pending in the TDSAT, sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) came out with fresh recommendations that licence fee should be charged based on 8 per cent AGR, which will be calculated by excluding service tax, entertainment tax, and sales tax/VAT paid to the government from the gross revenue. The recommendations on ‘Issues related to new DTH licences’ are pending with the MIB for approval.