Parliamentary panel favours deferment of CAS deadline

NEW DELHI: Even as the Indian government was initiating steps to see that the rollout of conditional access system (CAS) becomes as least bumpy as possible, a parliamentary committee was discussing the issue with several parliamentarians resisting such a move with a few also in favour of a deferment.

The standing committee on IT, communications and convergence, which met here today as part of a two-day schedule under the chairmanship of CPM's Somnath Chatterjee, witnessed members, cutting across party lines, raising doubts and reservations over the implementation of CAS from 15 July.

The Congress and the Left parties (that had opposed the changes being sought in the relevant Act in the Upper House of Parliament too) were of the opinion that CAS rollout be deferred and asked the government not to be "hasty" in CAS rollout.

According to government sources, the Bharatiya Janata Party (that leads the coalition government in India) MPs on the parliamentary committee too expressed apprehensions about the consumer response to CAS in the metros.

Though information and broadcasting ministry secretary Pawan Chopra today deposed before the panel to explain the government's viewpoints on CAS, he refused to speak to the media on the issue. But I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told journalists elsewhere that his party colleagues' criticism of CAS exemplifies the democratic way in which the party functions. Shankar however, asserted the CAS rollout deadline remains "unchanged."

Several members of the Standing Committee said that they were not opposed to CAS, but the issue of affordability of set-top boxes and the resultant effect on people needs to be examined more thoroughly.

The government is understood to have allayed the fears of the MPs, even while bringing to their notice that the finance ministry had earlier in the day announced a reduction in customs duty on imports of STBs.

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