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TDSAT orders Den Networks to pay outstanding dues to Star India

Den and Star are locked in a battle for outstanding dues amounting to over Rs 25 crore (in DAS and non-DAS areas)

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai | October 1, 2015


The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) at a hearing on September 28, 2015 in the case pertaining to the payment of outstanding dues by Den Networks to Star India, directed the Multi-System Operator (MSO) to clear these dues.

As is known, Den and Star have been involved in a bitter dispute over payment of outstanding dues.

By order dated September 14, 2015, TDSAT had directed Den Networks to make on-account payment of Rs 15 crore by September 18, 2015 towards its dues to Star India. Den made payment of Rs 11.91 crore on September 18, 2015 and another payment of Rs 3.09 crore on September 21, 2015. Though, the payments were not fully in compliance with the Tribunal’s order, TDSAT considered it a lapse and decided to leave the matter at that.

As regards payment of the current monthly license fees, on September 11, 2015, Star India had issued two invoices – one for the non-DAS areas for the month of September 2015 for Rs 42,628,464 and the other for DAS areas (excluding Navi Mumbai) for the months of June and July 2015 for the sum of Rs 202,185,038. According to Den, the two invoices were sent to it through e-mail on September 18, 2015.

With non-payment of the two invoices by Den, Star India filed applications (M.A. No.317 & M.A. No.318 of 2015) under section 20 of the TRAI Act on September 21, 2015.

Meet Malhotra, Senior Advocate, appearing for Den Networks, contested the amounts of the two invoices. He presented a number of documents on record and submitted that the invoiced amounts included the increase of 27.5 per cent provided under the TRAI Tariff Order, which was quashed by the Tribunal by judgment and order dated April 28, 2015. The contention was that since a part of the invoiced amounts was based on increases not sanctioned by law, Den Networks was not liable to make payment of the invoices until reconciliation of accounts underway between the two sides, as directed by the Tribunal’s order, was complete.

After hearing counsel for both the parties, TDSAT was, prima facie, unable to accept Malhotra’s contention. It stated, “It appears to us that the invoiced amount of Rs 42,628,464 for the non-DAS areas is in accordance with the agreement executed between the parties. We, however, make it clear that this observation is not final and is subject to the finding arrived at the end of the trial of the matter. For the purpose of this interim order, however, we hold that petitioner is liable to pay the aforesaid amount for non-DAS areas as monthly licence fee for the month of September 2015.”

TDSAT further stated, “In terms of the agreement, the licence fee for every month must be paid at the end of the month. Hence, the petitioner is liable to make payment of the invoices for the non-DAS areas by September 30, 2015.”

Regarding the invoice for the DAS areas for the months of June and July 2015, Rajsekher Rao, counsel for Star India, submitted that the invoicing was running behind time due to the petitioner’s default in furnishing the SMS (Subscription Management Software) reports. According to Rao, SMS reports for the months of June and July 2015 were given to the respondent only in September 2015, whereupon the invoices were raised for those two months.

On hearing counsel for the parties, TDSAT was of the view that in compliance with the previous order, the petitioner was bound to make payment of the invoiced amounts for the months of June and July 2015. In terms of the DAS agreement, which allows the petitioner to make payment within 15 days of the receipt of the invoice, the petitioner must make payment of the invoiced amounts for the DAS areas by October 3, 2015.

Den Networks was also directed to give SMS reports to Star India for each month as stipulated in the DAS agreement. Legal counsel for Den Networks, Meet Malhotra assured that the SMS reports for August and September 2015 would be given to the respondent as required under the agreement.

At this stage, Malhotra also said that apart from Rs 15 crore, as directed by the previous order, the petitioner had made some more payments to the respondent.  The petitioner has given the details of payments, including cheque numbers, etc., to the counsel for the parties.

Star India will verify the payments as claimed to have been made by Den Networks and those payments will be adjusted against the payment for the invoices in question.

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