TDSAT directs Sony, IMCL to enter into written agreement

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has directed broadcaster Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) and multi system operator IndusInd Media and Communications Ltd (IMCL) to enter into a written agreement either on the basis of negotiated terms or on RIO terms within 20 days from 30 October.

The agreement between the parties ended in June 2018. Subsequently, the talks between the parties failed following which the broadcaster issued a disconnection notice against the MSO. IMCL moved TDSAT against the disconnection notices issued by Sony.

The tribunal also stated that the issue of outstanding dues will not come in the way of the MSO if it pays an amount of Rs. 13.28 crore before the expiry of 20 days. It has also extended accommodation to the MSO for paying the dues for October 2018 by end of November 2018.

The MSO will be liable to pay for the entire period until the beginning of the new agreement. Under the new agreement petitioner will be entitled to exclude, inter-alia, the territory of Hyderabad.

The matter has been posted for hearing under the same head on 29 November.

The bone of contention between the parties is whether MSO is liable the monthly subscription fees for the area of Hyderabad. The city was included in both the previous agreements between the parties.

During the earlier agreement itself, the MSO had differences with the broadcaster with respect to the area of Hyderabad. Ultimately, Sony filed a petition before TDSAT for a decree of Rs. 3.81 crore approximately which is the amount covering the area of Hyderabad as well as Noida till November 2016.

Following the dispute, the broadcaster disconnected the supply of signals for Hyderabad in October 2016 even as the petition is still pending in the TDSAT.

The parties entered into a one-year agreement in September 2017 which included the area of Hyderabad. The MSO had agreed to pay a licence fee for all the areas. However, for the purpose of accounts and taxation, the parties are aware of the amount of licence fee shown separately for Hyderabad.

The MSO pleaded before the TDSAT that it should be totally exempted from paying anything for Hyderabad area even for the period covered by last MOU which expired in June 2018.

For the later period, it has claimed adjustment of carriage fees which indicates that the arrangement between the parties has continued even after June on certain clear understanding. It is also disputing its liability for Hyderabad for the period after June.

Sony contended that if Hyderabad is to be excluded after June 2018 then the claim of carriage fee should also not be considered for the entire area.

Further, the MSO claimed that the outstanding could not be more than Rs. 9.78 crore and it would get further reduced by the amount of TDS which they claim to have deposited for the period July to September 2018. That amount of TDS as has been shown to be Rs. 2.19 crores.

On the other hand, Sony has submitted their own calculation of the outstanding keeping in view the claims of the petitioner, some of which they have presently accommodated for the purpose of interim arrangement.

According to Sony, the outstanding dues till the period September 2018 would not be less than Rs. 13.28 crore. However, it was accepted that if the MSO can produce TDS certificate for the period July to September 2018 then that amount will be adjusted from Rs. 13.28 crore.