Govt claims law & order worries over CAS implementation

NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: The Indian government continues to be in a bind over conditional access system (CAS) and its implementation in Mumbai and Kolkata with both the cities refusing to toe the Central government line.

Uppermost on the minds of bureaucrats in the information and broadcasting ministry is the issue of law and order, which may go into a tailspin if the Centre pushes ahead with its diktat.

Pointing out that a law and order problem may crop up, with some people (read the Shiv Sena) actively against CAS in Mumbai especially, a senior I&B ministry official said, "We are studying the situation and this would be discussed in the meeting of the chief secretaries (of the states where CAS is being sought ot be implemented) on 15 September."

The official also said that the Centre cannot push beyond a point on CAS rollout unless the state government ensures no violence or untoward incidents would take place. "For set-top boxes it's not worth having riots," the official half-jokingly said. Half-jokingly or otherwise, such alarmist statements do not exactly instil confidence in the government's ability to push through CAS.

In Mumbai meanwhile, Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal (who is also the state home minister in charge of law and order), true to his shoot from the lip style, has said he sees CAS as a serious security threat.

The Press Trust of India quotes Bhujbal as saying, "CAS will enable sending messages to a particular individual and it can pose a danger to the city's security which is already facing threat from terrorist outfits," in his communique to I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The farcical addition to the CAS imbroglio aside, the I&B ministry is also hoping against hope that various CAS-related cases that are pending in the Delhi courts will deliver decisions favourable to the government. This would provide the Central government with a stronger case to "persuade" the state governments with.

Though, it is another story that Delhi was denotified from the CAS rollout map at the behest of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party leaders only on the plea that state elections are round the corner and introduction of CAS would have a negative effect on BJP's bid to wrest Delhi from the Congress.

What has not received much attention in the media around the denotification however, is that CAS has not just been deferred in Delhi (as is is the general assumption), it is officially and legally off the CAS rollout map. According to a notification dated 31 August amending the 10 July notification setting 1 September as the CAS rollout date, Delhi has been DELETED from its ambit. Therefore, even after the elections are completed in the capital, only if a fresh notification is issued will the capital be part of the CAS rollout plan.

A case against the denotification of Delhi on CAS has been filed by Zee Group cable arm, Siti Cable, and the case is up for hearing on 17 September. The hearing of another case filed by Cable Networks' Association at the Delhi High Court too, is pending hearing and final disposal.

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