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Delhi HC directs Rohtak cable ops to switch to DAS in 2 weeks

MUMBAI: Delhi High Court has dismissed the Rohtak Cable Operators’ Association’s petition against the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) notification of 11 September 2014 declaring 31 December 2015 as the deadline for Phase III of digital addressable system (DAS).

The association had sought a stay on the DAS Phase III deadline on the ground of insufficient supply of set-top boxes (STBs).

However, this contention did not hold much water as multi-system operator (MSO) Siti Networks, which had impleaded itself in the matter as respondent No. 4, had countered the contention by stating that it was ready and willing to provide STBs as per the requirement of the members of the petitioner association.

The MSO also contended that it had received no request for STBs from any of the association members.

The division bench comprising Chief Justice Rohini G and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal disposed of the writ petition after Siti’s statement on record that the required number of STBs would be provided as and when required by the members of the petitioner association.

The bench also directed the members of the petitioner association to complete the installation of STBs and change over to DAS within two weeks. The changeover needs to be communicated to their respective subscribers in advance.

While passing the order, the bench noted that the consistent plea of the respondents that sufficient STBs were readily available could not be disputed by the association.

On the association’s request for being granted some more time for digitisation, the bench noted that the decision of implementation of DAS is a policy decision of the Indian government based on the recommendations of TRAI, an expert body, primarily with the objective of reforming the existing analogue regime and to address its drawbacks, and thus to provide a system of transparency in the interest of consumers.

It also observed that the association’s members had not been able to switch to DAS despite the deadline of Phase III being extended once by a year.

It also stated that the association had not challenged the validity of the notification dated 11 November 2011 that made implementation of DAS obligatory, but the cable operators concerned were unable to implement DAS for want of sufficient number of STBs.

“Even the said plea of non-availability of sufficient number of STBs is found to be factually incorrect. We are, therefore, of the view that the writ petition need not be kept pending any longer,” the bench said in its order.

The case was originally filed in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. It was transferred to Delhi High Court after it became the designated court for all DAS Phase III-related cases.

Meanwhile, the bench also adjourned a large number of cases challenging the 11 September 2014 notification until 7 December.

Some of the cases that had come up before the bench included Nasik Zilla Cable Operators Association, Radiant Digitek Networks, Digiana Projects, OM Systems, Ortel Communications, Moon IT Service, Allahabad Cable TV Operator Welfare Society, Saleem Khan, Agile Broadband, Sharad Kumar Gautam, Ganpati Digital Network, Ashad Hasan Siddiqi, Harinder Kumar, Sree Devi Digital Systems, Pritpal Singh and Harish Malhotra.