TDSAT levies penalty on Independent TV for violation of orders

MUMBAI: Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has levied a penalty on direct to home (DTH) operator Independent TV for failing to clear IndiaCast Media Distribution‘s dues as well as non-disclosure of movable/immovable assets.

The tribunal has directed the DTH operator to pay a penalty of Rs. 5 lakh within two weeks in view of the continued act of disobedience by first not complying with the order passed on 6.11.2019 and then not making the disclosure with required details despite the order passed on 10.1.2020.

It also stated that further penalty shall be imposed on the next date if the full details of assets and liabilities as required under the relevant provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) are not disclosed.

On going through the disclosure of assets, TDSAT noted that the disclosure is not in the format required and does not disclose all the assets. However, it has been disclosed that the DTH operator has two Fixed Deposits (FDs) of Rs. 40 crore and Rs. 10 crore respectively with Punjab National Bank, Sector 27, Noida, UP. The disclosure shows that against the above FDs, Bank Guarantees have been issued in favour of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).

It is also submitted in the said certificate that the above Bank Account (number and particulars not disclosed) has been seized by U.P. Police under CrPC 102. The seizure is in exercise of power under Section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973. The DTH operator also intimated that a Criminal Writ Petition against the seizure is pending in High Court of UP at Allahabad.

The tribunal stated that there is no difficulty in accepting the submission on behalf of IndiaCast that the disclosure is incomplete, inadequate and for preventing it from passing an effective order for attachment of the assets.

For attachment, the details of all the Bank Accounts, as well as the location of all the movable and immovable assets and the financial statements relating to Independent TV, were required to be disclosed in terms of the format prescribed in the CPC.

That, the tribunal said, appears to have been deliberately avoided by the respondent although it was indicated in the last order that penalty may be imposed depending upon the future conduct of the DTH operator.

“Since the respondent is appearing to avoid compliance deliberately, the Incharge, who has sworn the affidavit, shall also be present on the next date along with all the relevant records to answer the specific questions that may be put to him by the Tribunal. For showing compliance as to disclosure, payment of penalty and for appearance on the next date, time is fixed on or before the next date,” TDSAT said in its order.

While posting the matter under the same head on 12th March, the tribunal has stated that the details of the police case as well as of the Writ Petition shall also be disclosed on affidavit before the next date.

On 6th November 2019, TDSAT had considered interim prayers and it was held that even at the interim stage, the DTH operator is required to pay at least an amount of Rs. 3.65 crore as early as possible, preferably within two months failing which further suitable orders may be passed.

It was also recorded that instead of passing an order of attachment, the DTH operator is directed not to part with its assets, movable or immovable, without seeking permission of this Tribunal. It was also ordered that if the payment is not made within the time indicated, the respondent shall disclose its entire assets by the next date.

On 10th January, it was noticed that the respondent has not made any payment towards the admitted liability of Rs. 3.65 crores nor it had disclosed its assets. The tribunal held that it amounted to willful disregard of its order and attracted award of penalty. However, the amount of penalty was left open so as to give another chance to the respondent to file the entire list of assets on affidavit in the format prescribed under the provisions in Order XXI Rule 41 of the CPC within three weeks.

It was made clear that if Independent TV does not pay the admitted dues by the next date, suitable orders for the execution of the judgement and order for the admitted amount shall be passed.

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