Cable TV

DAS Phase III cases caught up in a logjam courtesy Delhi High Court

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NEW DELHI: With the Delhi High Court yet to decide on the date of hearing all cases seeking extension of Phase III of digital addressable system passed on to it by the Supreme Court, two more cases – before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal – have been put off again.

Petitions by the Rohtak Cable Operator Association, Haryana, and Rewari Cable Operators Association against Siti Cable Networks have been put off to 11 August by member B B Srivastava.

In the previous hearing on 6 May 2016, the cases had been put off in view of their pendency before the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

However, the Tribunal said that in view of the directive by the Punjab and Haryana High Court that SitiCable will not interfere with the operators continuing to transmit in analogue, the previous order of 6 May 2016 of the Tribunal will continue.

In its order on 11 July 2016, the Tribunal noted the statement by counsel for the cable operator organizations that the matter was now being transferred to the Delhi High Court after the order of the Supreme Court but “is yet to be listed.”

But the Tribunal said the LCOs will continue to pay the monthly subscription fee as per the previous agreement and on thebasis of invoices raised by the respondent in order to receive signals.

The registry of the Supreme Court has sent to all the concerned High Courts the directive of the apex court of 1 April for transfer of all cases seeking extension to digital addressable system for cable television to Delhi High Court with a view to avoid conflicting decisions.’

A copy of the order was also sent to the Delhi High Court and it was now up to that Court to fix a date, Supreme Court officials said.

The officials said that the attempt would be to first receive from the various High Courts the papers relating to the petitions, which almost all had pleaded shortage of set top boxes for seeking extension or stay of DAS which became effective 1 January 2016.

The apex court had accepted the plea of the Central Government that ‘it would be just and proper for this Court to withdraw allthose cases pending in different High Courts and transfer the same to the Delhi High Court.’

Ironically, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had on 12 January 2016 written to its counsel in Punjab and Hryana High Court that it had understood the Hyderabad order to mean a pan India stay while asking him to defend the case.

But later, the Ministry sources admitted to indiantelevision.com that there was a misreading of the Bombay High Court directive. The Court had merely refereed to the Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd vs the Union of India 2004 case to say that if one High Court gives a stay, another High Court can act in similar fashion if the facts are similar – in this case, shortage of STBs. Thus, they agree that the High Court stay was only confined to Maharashtra and not pan-India.

Earlier, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation had withdrawn its petition after the Supreme Court said that the order of the Bombay High Court did not imply any pan-India stay.

The last DAS Task Force meeting on 30 May 2016 was informed that a total of 42 court cases have been filed for extension in the deadline of Phase lll in various courts in the country with the two-month extension by the Telangana & Andhra Pradesh High Courts. Other Courts followed suit in the ground that this order was extendable to other areas. This led to the Centre moving the Supreme Court which passed an order of transfer of all cases for extension filed in various courts and any new cases on similar prayer to the Delhi High Court for adjudication.

The meeting was also told 17 cases had been transferred by various courts to the Delhi High Court out of which the High Court had dismissed three cases and another three cases were being heard that same day.

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