Mumbai High Court to hear 'cable case' on 10 September

MUMBAI: It was quite inevitable but those were expecting to get a ruling got another date. A division bench of the Mumbai High Court comprising Chief Justice CL Thakker and Dr Dhananjay Chandrachud, after listening to arguments from both sides, proclaimed the next date of the 'cable case' hearing - 10 September.

However, several Mumbai-based lawyers are of the opinion that the central government's dithering over the decision to postpone CAS (conditional access system) rollout in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata can be challenged.

On 3 September, there was intense confusion as one petition came up for hearing before noon; but several lawyers of concerned petitioners and respondents weren't present; and it was decided to club the petition with the other petitions that were to be heard at 2:45 pm.

Finally, the union informed the court that the city had been given a 10-day grace period due to the ongoing festival of Ganesh Chaturti. Since CAS is not expected to happen till 10 September, the next hearing will also take place on the same date.

The team spoke to some lawyers and obtained reactions from them:

The president of an NGO Consumer Action Network lawyer Ahmad Abdi says: "The government must clearly clarify its stand. How can the government hesitate in implementing CAS when a law has been passed in the Parliament of the country - the highest legislative authority in the country?"

Talking about the partial implementation of CAS, Abdi says: "The government cannot discriminate between cities. How can the government cite the excuses such as political compulsions rather than administrative compuslions in the postponement of CAS rollout in Delhi? The government's haphazard ways might have legal implications and consumers are suffering. Anyone who challenges the government's decision will have a strong case as per the law."

The lawyers representing the multi-system operators argued that the government must go ahead with CAS rollout.

Lawyer Janak Dwarkadas, who represents the multi system operator INCableNet also agrees: "The government's stance is causing prejudice to the multi-system operators. Incidentally, INCableNet has invested millions in setting up CAS infrastructure. Moreover, several consumers have taken advantage of the earlier ruling and are abstaining from paying monthly cable rents. Yesterday, we argued in court and emphasised that the government must go ahead with the rollout of CAS in the various cities as specified in both the houses of the Parliament."

Darshan Mehta of Dhruve Liladhar & Co, who represents BJP member of Parliament Kirit Somaiya says the court has decide to persist with its earlier ruling that the cable operators can charge 10 per cent more than the rates applicable as on 31 December 2002. "More importantly, the court has maintained that cable operators cannot disconnect connections of those who pay this amount. Now, we shall wait for the next hearing on 10 September," adds Mehta.

It looks as if the court is taking its own time till there is more clarity amongst the various elements of the government, the I&B ministry and the politicians.

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