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DAS Phase III implementation extended by 2 months in AP, Telangana; Indore petition dismissed

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NEW DELHI: Multi system operators (MSOs) in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh got a reprieve of eight weeks from implementing the Digital Addressable System (DAS) in Phase III towns and cities following stay orders issued by the Hyderabad High Court.

While the Federation of Telangana MSOs got the relief yesterday (30 December), the MSO Welfare Association of Andhra Pradesh received the orders today (31 December).

Issuing notice to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the judge also turned down an oral plea by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for being impleaded in the case. He said the regulator was free to file an application in this regard.

Initially, Justice Vilas V Afzalpurkar recalled an order granted by a bench of which he was a part on 20 August, 2013 with regard to DAS Phase II and noted that all the issues being raised by counsel C Ramachandra Raju - who represented both parties - had been raised at that time and should have been dealt with by now.

However, counsel Raju said statutory powers always come with corresponding responsibilities. He said the government was meant to give facilities to help people and not create more problems by enforcing a deadline without ensuring adequate seeding of set top boxes (STBs). Furthermore, he said the 2013 case was filed as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by an outside party whereas these petitions have been filed by the major stakeholders - the MSOs. In any case, Raju pointed out that no point of law had been decided in the 2013 case and so that case could not be taken as a precedent.

He said that even the Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh had written to the Centre to say that it was not possible to meet the deadline as STBs were inadequate.

The judge also heard Assistant Solicitor General B Narayana Reddy on behalf of the government before directing it to file a counter affidavit within eight weeks.

The Central Government had issued its directive about Phase III on 11 September, 2014.

MSO Kishna Mohan, who is adviser to the Federation of Telangana MSOs, told Indiantelevision.com that under Phase III, 168 towns with 2.6 million collections were to be covered in Telangana and 178 towns with 3.5 million collections in Andhra Pradesh.

The 13th Task Force meeting held yesterday was apprised of these cases and of the case in Indore was to be heard today, but assured all stakeholders that the Government will follow the directives of the Courts but will not extend the date beyond today unless directed by any Court to do so.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that a similar petition by Indore-based MSO Om Systems in the Madhya Pradesh High Court seeking a stay on digitisation in Phase III areas of Madhya Pradesh has been dismissed.

Earlier, the Bombay High Court had declined to stay the deadline but said that interim stop gap agreements could be signed while asking the TRAI to come out with a model interconnect agreement at the earliest.

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