Giving relief to 90 LCOs who are members of Jabalpur Cable Operator Welfare Association, Madhya Pradesh, the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has directed the multi-system operator (MSO) Siti Cable Network to maintain status quo until final orders.
Additionally, the tribunal has directed the LCOs to make payment to Siti Cable at the rate at which they had made the last payment, in case any payment falls due before the next date in this case.
Subject to this direction, the MSO shall not discontinue supply of its signals to the cable operators.
The tribunal accepted the petition filed by the association even though its maintainability was challenged by the MSO.
While directing Siti Cable counsel Tejveer Bhatia to file the reply within a week, the tribunal said that he would be free to reinitiate the issue of maintainability of the petition, and the point, if so required, may be considered in greater detail.
Rejoinder, if any, may be filed within a week from the date of receipt of copy of the reply. The matter has been put up under the heading for orders on 6 October.
TDSAT allows LCOs to file a case jointly through their association
Earlier, while raising a preliminary objection to the petition filed by the association, Bhatia had submitted that Section 14 of TRAI gives the tribunal the jurisdiction to adjudicate any dispute between (i) a licensor and licensee; (ii) two or more service providers, and (iii) a service provider and a group of consumers. The petitioner association does not come under any of these three categories, he contended.
However, the tribunal refused to accept this objection arguing that the petitioner is a registered association of cable operators. It represents 90 LCOs who are in dispute with the MSO.
Each of the cable operators is a service provider and each of them can approach the tribunal in respect of its disputes with the respondent, the TDSAT said. But being small operators, it may not have the necessary wherewithal and the resources to place its grievances before the tribunal situated in Delhi, it added.
If, therefore, for financial and logistical reasons, the cable operators pool their resources and authorise the association to represent them before the tribunal, the tribunal sees no legal impediment in their maintaining this petition, it averred.
It is all the more so because each of the cable operators, by virtue of the authorisation given to the association, will be bound by the orders passed in this petition, it said.