DAS Phase-3 has been postponed by various state High Courts, for atleast 2 months. In fact, there are a variety of individual High Court orders granting dissimilar extensions, which has mired in.........
The Government of India has issued an Act to amend the Cable Television Networks (Regulations) Act, 1995 for all cable TV networks to compulsorily shift to a Digital Addressable System (DAS). A 4 phase transition……….........
DAS-3 IMPLEMENTATION POSTPONED BY HIGH COURT
The months of December & January saw a deluge of petitions being filed in High Courts across the Country, resulting in Stay Orders or postponement of the implementation deadline for DAS-3.
It started with the Hyderabad High Court granting a 2 month stay on DAS-3 implementation in Telangana, on the basis of a petition filed by a few Telangana MSOs. The Federation had moved the HC seeking more time to seed set-top boxes (STBs).
The Andhra Pradesh MSOs Welfare Federation filed a petition in the same Hyderabad High Court, (which is a common high court for the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh). The AP High Court also granted a stay for 2 months.
In a related development, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu wrote to the Information and Broadcasting Minster seeking a 6- month extension to DAS-3 deadline.
The letter said that only a few MSOs have got their DAS License, mainly due to to non-affordability of digital headends. In view of the special situation in Andhra Pradesh, the commissioning of the AP Fiber Grid is required to enable MSOs/LCOs to utilise this network infrastructure. As this model is going to be uniform among all operators, the cable operators may not be willing/able to invest for STBs in advance to meet the present deadline. Hence, it was requested to consider extending the phase III Digitisation target date by six months beyond 31 December, 2015.
Thereafter, The High Court of Sikkim granted a 3-month stay on the implementation of DAS-3 in that state, and ordered the Ministry of I&B (MIB) to maintain status quo. The matter has been listed for hearing on 28 March 2016.
The All Sikkim Cable Operators Association had filed a petition seeking extension of digitisation deadline since the multi-system operators (MSOs) and local cable operators (LCOs) were finding it difficult to get funding for seeding set-top boxes (STBs) and laying optical fibres, which was becoming all the more difficult due to the state’s difficult terrain. The petitioners also submitted that STBs were not easily available in the country due to which it was not possible to comply with the deadline.
The central government counsel submitted that ample time had been afforded to the operators for the switchover. While objecting to the petition of stay, the government counsel sought 4 months time to file his response.
Then on 6th January, The High Court of Orissa restrained the implementation of DAS-3 in Orissa.
In its order, the HC of Orissa directed the MIB to consider the representation submitted by Ortel Communications, a leading MSO in Orissa, who had written to the MIB seeking time for the implementation of DAS due to the unavailability of STBs. The court further directed the MIB not to take any coercive action until then.
Similarly, Indore-based MSO Om Systems filed a petition in the Madhya Pradesh High Court challenging section 4A of Cable Television Networks Regulation Act 1995 besides seeking a stay on digitisation in Phase III areas of Madhya Pradesh. When the matter came up for hearing in December, the HC acceded to the Union government’s request and granted it two weeks to file its reply, while also issuing notice to the TRAI to file its reply in the matter.
A major milestone was the passing of the Orders by the Mumbai High Court, who stayed the implementation of DAS-3 in Maharashtra by one month subject to further hearing. Citing an earlier Supreme Court judgment, the HC said that a stay granted by one high court on a central notification would be applicable to other states as well.
Nashik Zilla Cable Operator Association (NZCOA) had filed an application seeking a stay on DAS-3 due to unresolved issues related to interconnection agreements in Phases I and II. When the matter came up for hearing before the HC, the petitioner presented the bench with the copies of stay orders passed by the High Courts of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Sikkim and pleaded that the deadline for Phase III should be extended since other high courts had already done that.
The advocate for the IBF, however contended that the relief was limited to the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Sikkim, at which point the petitioner quoted the judgment of the Supreme Court in Kusum Ingots & Alloys vs UOI to buttress their point.
Taking note of that argument, the HC passed an order noting that the sunset date was extended by the Hyderabad HC.
Continuing the spate of orders from High Courts, Karnataka followed suit to get a court extension.
In Karnataka, Belgaum-based JBM Cable Network, Mangalore-based V4 Digital Infotech and Bellary-based Mubarak Satellite Services got orders from the Karnataka HC granting interim relief.
In the case of Mubarak Satellite Services, the HC has directed the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) not to disconnect the cable network operated by the petitioner until he gets his DAS licence.
Similarly, in JBM Cable Network’s case, the HC has directed the centre not to take coercive action.
V4 Digital had pleaded that, due to paucity of set-top boxes (STBs), it was not possible to digitise the entire subscriber base before the 31 December deadline. The HC stayed the disconnection of the petitioner’s analogue network until further orders.
The Orders of various Courts continued into mid-January, with the office of the District Magistrate, Kamrup Metropolitan District, Guwahati, extending the transmission of the analogue signals for a period of 60 days in Guwahati, after perusing the letter submitted by Greater Guwahati Cable TV Operators Association general secretary Shwarupananda Bharali.
Chhattisgarh became the latest addition to the list. The Chhattisgarh High Court, on a petition filed by Gentle Entertainment Private Limited, announced a 2-month extension to complete the seeding process. The court ordered stakeholders to complete the proceedings in two months and ordered that during the process cable connections should not be discontinued. The High Court said that the twomonth stay on the implementation of digital addressable system (DAS) Phase III will not be extended further and that the Union government will be at a liberty to proceed in accordance with law following the expiry of the two-month period.
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting last month told the High Court of Punjab & Haryana that it is not going to press for implementation of DAS in Phase III cities till the High Courts decide on the pending cases. The submission was made by Union of India counsel Vivek Singla on a petition by a Punjab cable operator named Parbodh Rattan, who was seeking a stay on DAS Phase III implementation in Punjab due to shortage of STBs.
In view of the stand taken by the ministry, the HC felt that there is no need for an interim order and dismissed the petition as infructuous.
Secretary MIB, Mr. Sunil Arora had told the press last month that the Centre would be moving the Supreme Court in this matter. Ministry sources said that the petition in the apex Court was likely to be an appeal against one High Court with an application that all other matters may also be heard simultaneously.