TDSAT tells Reliance Big TV to clear dues or face disconnection of service from Antrix- Television Post

In a major setback for direct to home (DTH) operator Reliance Big TV, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has allowed Antrix Corporation to disconnect transponder service to the DTH operator if it fails to clear dues within the time frame set by the tribunal. With the dues escalating to Rs 23.32 crore minus TDS till March, the tribunal has directed the DTH operator to deposit the first installment of 50% by 22 March and the balance by 31 March. The TDS of Rs. 2.60 crores will also have to be deposited in the proper account as per law by 31 March. “The respondent would be at liberty to disconnect service to the petitioner if there is any default on the part of the petitioner in complying with the above directions within the time indicated,” the tribunal said in its order. The DTH operator, which is now owned by Pantel Technologies and Veecon Television and Media, has pleaded for grant of one more opportunity on the assurance that it will abide by the time schedule fixed by this tribunal. The DTH operator also said that Antrix will be liberty to disconnect the service in case of default. In its earlier order dated 22 February, the tribunal had directed the DTH operator to pay a substantial part of Rs. 16.77 crore by 19 March. However, the DTH operator has only given a cheque of Rs. 1 crore to Antrix. The tribunal noted that if the dues of February are also taken into consideration, the DTH operator has also incurred further liability of about more than Rs. 4 crore towards Antrix. The total outstanding payable by the DTH operator till March-end is Rs. 25.92 crores including the TDS amount of Rs. 2.60 crore. The transponder lease agreement between Antrix and Reliance Big TV will expire on 14 April. The DTH operator told the TDSAT that it intends to negotiate for renewal of the agreement with Antrix. It has given a proposal that it will pay the dues for 14 days service in April in total by 10 April and on this assurance, the Antrix should not disturb the services to the DTH operator unless there is default in paying the past dues and dues for 14 days of April. Antrix counsel has sought explicit liberty to disconnect service to the DTH operator if it defaults in complying with the tribunal’s directions. The tribunal granted the liberty to Antrix. With these directions and observations, the tribunal disposed of the main petition as well as all pending applications. Background of the case Antrix had threatened to suspend the availability of transponders to Reliance Digital TV due to non-payment of dues. The DTH operator moved TDSAT seeking relief. On 13 October, the tribunal had directed Antrix Corporation not to suspend satellite transponders to the DTH operator provided the latter makes a payment of Rs 7.5 crore in two installments. The tribunal had also directed the DTH operator to pay, on account, an amount of Rs 7.5 crore of which Rs 5 crore was to be paid preferably by 13 October but certainly on 16 October and the remaining Rs 2.5 crore by the end of the week. Satellite operator MEASAT had demanded a payment of Rs 20.7 crore in advance from the DTH operator. All DTH operators have to go through Antrix for hiring transponders even from foreign satellite operators. Meanwhile, in a related matter, the broadcasters have complained to the TDSAT that the DTH operator has failed to fulfill its obligations to clear the pending dues. Since there are agreements in many cases, the tribunal directed the parties to demonstrate on an affidavit that Pantel and Veecon have failed to carry out their obligations. The tribunal had granted liberty to the broadcasters to file affidavits by 19 March, which was the next date of hearing, so that the grievances as per law. It also asked Pantel and Veecon to file an affidavit with a categorical statement that there are no balance dues on account of installment in terms of the agreements and also that they have paid the current dues that have become payable if they want to ensure that the interim order continues in their favour. In November 2017, Pantel along with Veecon had acquired Reliance Big TV from debt-ridden Reliance Communications. Pursuant to the transaction, the new owners have taken over the existing trade and contingent liabilites from RCom. #Antrix#Reliance Big TV#Reliance Digital TV#TDSAT


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