In August 2017, Department of Space run Antrix Corporation revised its price-list through an annexure dated 7th August, 2017 which made the revised price-list effective from April 1, 2016. The revision in price hike affected all those using leased satellite transponders through Antrix not limited to DTH operators, broadcasters, VSAT operators and so on.
Govt of India in the capacity of a service provider i.e Antrix Corporation moved TDSAT against multiple service providers for recovery of dues which they weren’t inclining to pay. The bone of contention being the issue whether the revision of price-list from a date earlier to the date of issue of the revised pricelist amounted to retrospective revision of price, and therefore being against the provisions of law and the agreement.
While the exact price hike in different cases is unknown, separate judgments in GOI petitions against Mi Marathi and Broadcast Initiatives reveal a price hike of 20% in the case of broadcasters leasing space on INSAT and GSAT satellites.
GOI moved TDSAT at the end of 2018 for recovery of dues from Tata Sky. Tata Sky in reply filed a writ petition by way of defense in front of the Delhi High Court which is currently pending. The issue is also pending in various telecom petitions in front of the tribunal with the revised price for the period prior to 7th August, 2017 not given effect in many cases with TDSAT staying it during the course of the hearing.
The cases saw sluggish progress initially with service providers not filing replies in time to GOI’s petition against them for recovery of dues. One of the tribunal’s order mention the Antrix’s counsel stating, “Huge amount of dues is involved in these petitions which the respondents are not inclined to pay, hence they are deliberately delaying the matters by not filing their replies.”
Tata Sky’s case in Delhi High Court has also not seen much progress, leading to Tata Sky earlier this year move Supreme Court for the transfer of GOI’s petition against it in TDSAT to Supreme Court.
Hon’ble Supreme Court on 22nd May dismissed the transfer petition requesting TDSAT to decide the matter expeditiously given the peculiar facts of the case.
The tribunal has now lined up the cases for hearing on Tuesday for framing of issues. Tata Sky, is the lone DTH operator to completely use Indian satellites for its operation, while Dish TV and Sun Direct use a few transponders from GSAT 15.
Whether Dish TV and Sun Direct paid up the differential amount because of revision of rates from a date earlier to the date of issue of the revised price-list is unknown, but Union of India or the 2 DTH operators haven’t filed any cases against each other. Both have likely paid up, with another case order in TDSAT revealing that Bharti Airtel ended up paying the differential amount under coercion from Antrix threatening disconnection of signals.