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MIB will not press for DAS Phase III implementation till High Courts decide on the pending cases

MUMBAI: The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting is not going to press for implementation of DAS in Phase III cities till the High Courts decide on the pending cases.

At least, that is what seems to be the stance for now. The MIB has told the High Court of Punjab & Haryana that it is not going to press for set-top box (STB) installation till the matter is pending in various HCs.

The submission to this effect 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.

“Counsel for respondent No. 1 has submitted that earlier it was analogue telecast system which has been replaced by digital addressable system in which it is mandatory to have set-top box (STB), but the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, has decided not to press the requirement of having an STB as for now till the decision of the cases which are pending before various other Hon’ble High Courts,” the HC order read.

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.

Earlier, Assistant Solicitor General of India Punjab and Haryana High Court Chetan Mittal had sought the ministry’s opinion on the petition filed by Parbodh Rattan.

The Under Secretary to the Government of India Anil Kumar responded by saying that “as per legal opinion on the Bombay High Court’s Order dated 4.1.2016, the stay granted by High Court of AP & Telangana is valid across the country”.

The ministry has based its opinion on the Bombay HC order, which had ruled that a central notification stayed by an HC will be applicable across the country. The HC order was passed on an application seeking a stay on DAS Phase III in Maharashtra due to pending issues like interconnection agreement between MSOs and local cable operators (LCOs).

The HC stated that the stay order granted by Andhra Pradesh & Telangana High Court would be applicable across India. It had relied on Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd vs Union of India judgment to pass this order. The matter is listed for hearing on 1 February.

“Since the Andhra Pradesh High Court and Sikkim High Court have passed an order of status quo in view of the observations made by the apex court in the case Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd vs Union of India [(2004) 6 Supreme Court Cases 254] and, more particularly, paragraph 22 of the said order, the question of grant of interim order does not arise in this case. Stand over to 1st February 2016,” the Bombay HC had stated.

It is pertinent to note that the Union of India counsels in other HCs have so far been opposing DAS Phase III extension on the grounds that adequate time was granted to the MSOs and the LCOs to seed STBs.

In fact, MIB secretary Sunil Arora had told that the ministry was planning to move the Supreme Court to challenge the HC orders.

In the most recent case, the senior advocate representing the Union of India had opposed extension of deadline in the High Court of Chhattisgarh. The court finally granted a two-month stay noting that the petitioner, Gentle Entertainment, was only seeking more time for seeding STBs and was not opposing the implementation of DAS.

Currently, DAS Phase III has been stayed by the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad, Bombay High Court, Sikkim High Court, Odisha High Court, and High Court of Chhattisgarh. In Karnataka and Kerala, the HCs have granted relief to individual cable operators rather than staying the implementation across the state. In most cases, the stay has been granted due to STB shortage in the market.

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