Cable TV

Delhi HC refuses stay on CAS

NEW DELHI: A vacation bench of the Delhi High Court today did not put a stay on the CAS rollout in South Delhi area - as the petitioners probably would have expected - and has fixed 5 April 2004 as the next date of hearing.

The court has observed, apart from other things, that the respondent i.e. the Government of India should look into the facts. All those channels which earn revenue through advertising should not be made free to air.



In another suggestion to the government, the court has said that a regulatory body ought to be set up and that the government can also look into a mechanism wherein a limit can be put on the advertising time on the pay channel.

These are the suggestion and not the orders.

The court has also observed that till the next date of hearing, it would monitor the pros and cons of conditional access system (CAS) and then take a view. Interestingly, the cable fraternity joined issues and intervened in today's hearing as legal parties.

Those who intervened were Hathway Datacom, Cable Networks Association and a set-top box manufacturing company, which is said to be an importer of boxes for Zee Telefilms cable arm Siti Cable.

The case has filed by the Consumer Co-ordination Council (CCC) and the Consumer Online Foundation. The public interest litigation, filed by the consumer activist groups, had sought a stay on the implementation of conditional access in South Delhi as in its present form it was anti-consumer and there was no mechanism for consumer grievances redressal, amongst other shortcomings.

Congress Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha (Upper House) and lawyer Kapil Sibal, who has been opposing CAS' rollout and had a fiery debate on this with information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in Parliament last week, today represented the box manufacturing company in the Delhi HC.

At one time during the 90-minute odd argument session the court also asked Sibal whether he was for or against CAS. Sibal said that he is not against any technology like CAS, but is opposed to the way it is being sought to be implemented by the government.

The Indian government, through the I&B ministry, today also filed its responses, as directed by the court earlier, and pointed out that in the long run CAS would prove to be beneficial for the consumer as well as the industry.

Meanwhile, non-CAS subscribers too in South Delhi area enjoyed the brilliance of V. Sehwag's batting today in Melbourne as also another non-show by Sachin Tendulkar.

The cable ops and multi-system operators had allowed non-CAS homes to watch cricket in a goodwill gesture with the message that such concessions are unlikely to be extended in the new year and that buying of box is the only alternative to watching pay channels. "Or, the viewer can remain happy by watching free to air channels at the rate of Rs 72 (plus local taxes) per month," a cable operator said.

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