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DAS Phase III: Aurangabad bench of Bombay HC directs state to de-seal control rooms of cable ops

MUMBAI: The state government had to de-seal the control rooms of several cable operators in Maharashtra after directions from the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court that the government cannot take any coercive action in light of the Bombay High Court judgment.

The state administration had sealed the control rooms of Nanded-based Girish Bhao Cables, Jalgaon Media & Communication Network and Jalgaon-based Shraddha Cable Network for running analogue signals even after the 31 December digital addressable system (DAS) Phase III deadline.

The operators approached the Aurangabad bench seeking directions for the Union and state governments not to take coercive action since the Bombay HC judgment stated that the stay granted by Hyderabad and Sikkim High Courts would be applicable across India.

Disposing of the petitions of Girish Bhao Cables and Shradha Cable Network, the bench directed the Union and the state governments to de-seal the control rooms forthwith and not take any adverse action for a period of two months commencing from 31 December 2015.

Jalgaon Media and Communication Network’s petition is at pre-admission stage. The court has issued notices to the central and the state governments on the matter which are returnable by 4 February. The state government had taken action against the cable operator on identical grounds as other cable operators besides certain other additional grounds.

The order passed by the Bombay HC stated that in view of the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in the matter of Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd vs the Union of India and more particularly para no. 22 of the said order, the directions issued by the other HCs, i.e. Andhra Pradesh High Court and Sikkim High Court, would have to be complied with within the territory of India.

The Andhra Pradesh HC had directed the respondents including the Union of India to extend the deadline by two months commencing from 31 December 2015.

In this view of the matter, it was not permissible for the respondents to put a seal on the control room operated by the petitioner, the bench noted.

It is pertinent to note that the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) had submitted to the High Court of Haryana and Punjab that it would not press for set-top box (STB) installation till the HCs decide on the pending matters. This effectively meant that the government will not enforce DAS in Phase III areas until the matter is sub judice.

The deadline for moving to DAS regime in Phase III areas covering the remaining urban areas not covered in Phases I and II was 31 December 2015.

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