North Indian cable op gets Xmas gift from Star TV

NEW DELHI: A Christmas present to a cable operator from the Indian judiciary? It seems so.

On 24 December, a civil court of Faridabad, a town near Delhi, in an interim order played Santa Claus to the hilt while observing that a fresh circular from Star India calling upon Faridabad Entertainment Pvt Ltd (FEPL), a cable company, to increase the subscriber fee in order to continue getting Star signals seems on the face of it "unilateral and arbitrary.". 

Y.S. Rathor, civil judge (senior division) of Faridabad also directed the defendant (Star India) to "restore the network being transmitted to the plaintiff with immediate effect, till the next date of hearing." This was done on the night of 24 December. 

FEPL, a joint venture partner of Zee Telefilms' cable distribution arm Siti Cable, had moved the courts on 23 December praying that Star India's latest circular (received by it on December 14) on revision in subscription fee of Star channels violates an existing agreement that the two parties signed on 8 December with a validity of three months.

According to the prayer, a copy of which is available with, it has been alleged that vide the circular (reproduced here below) a threat has been issued to the plaintiff to "increase the subscriber fee and confirm the option on or before 30.12.2002 to continue to avail the signals." 

The Siti Cable joint venture partner had further pointed out that "since (an) agreement is already in force, defendant (Star) cannot disconnect the signal/transmission." Star had switched off its signals after the suit was filed on 23 December.

.The new Star circular --- surprisingly which was received by FEPL on 14 December when Star had made the announcement earlier --- referred to in the court says there are four options before the cable operator. 

* Increase declaration of the present subscriber base by 100 per cent to get the Star signals for Rs 30 per sub per month. 

*Increase declaration of the current subscriber base by 85 per cent and get Star signals for Rs 33 per sub per month..

*Increase declaration of the present subscriber base by 60 per cent to get Star channels for Rs 39 per sub per month.

*If the present subscriber base is increased by 50 per cent then the price remains the same at Rs 42 per sub per month. 

According to sources in FEPL, it had signed a new three-month contract with Star India earlier this month only and had increased the declaration "substantially."

The court also criticised the defendant's attempts to deny the plaintiff the right to go in for arbitration in areas that do not fall under the Delhi courts' jurisdiction. 

"No doubt in the agreement (signed between the two parties) it has been mentioned that the courts of Delhi shall have the jurisdiction to try a suite. A clause is there in the agreement that in case defendant wants to institute some suit, it can be instituted at Delhi or anywhere the affiliate resides and/or carry on business. By imposing this clause defendant cannot deny the plaintiff to sue at Faridabad, particularly when the defendant itself has reserved its rights to sue at Faridabad and plaintiff alone cannot be compelled to institute the suit or proceedings in Delhi," the local court observed.

Keep tuned in till the next date of hearing for more dope on this soap opera involving Star and Indian cable ops.

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