Supreme Court to hear IBF petition; MIB appeals against DAS III stay orders, asks to club all HC cases

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court is expected to hear on 19 February a petition by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) challenging an order of the Bombay High Court directing a pan-India stay of Phase III of Digital Addressable System (DAS). 

It is understood that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has filed a similar petition stressing on feedback from multi system operators (MSOs) and broadcasters at its Task Force meetings. 

Both petitions are expected to come up before a bench headed by Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar. had in early January quoted MIB secretary Sunil Arora confirming that the Government would approach the Supreme Court and club all High Court cases. Ministry sources said that it had taken time as the Law Ministry had to be consulted.

The IBF has, in its petition, said that the decision about DAS was a policy matter, which was taken in 2011 and various High Courts had upheld it at that time. 

It has been stated that the first two phases have been implemented and there is therefore no ground to stall the progress at this stage.

Both the Ministry and IBF petitions are accompanied by applications to the Court that all petitions in various High Courts where stay orders have been issued should be transferred to the apex court.

In any case, IBF has contended that the argument of shortage of set top boxes is erroneous as the Task Force meeting held at the end of December last had been told that 85 per cent seeding had been completed.

The Bombay High Court had relied on the Supreme Court order in the Kusum Ingots and Allous Ltd case where the apex Court had said that a High Court could give an order similar to that given by other High Courts if the circumstances were similar. In this case, all the cases related to shortage in seeding of STBs. 

The matter has already been stayed by other High Courts including Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Odisha, Maharashtra, Telengana and Chhattisgarh for the entire state, and for individual local cable operators in Karnataka and Kerala. The Allahabad High Court has also put off the matter in view of the Ministry’s decision.

The matter remains stayed in Tamil Nadu where the Madras High Court had, after Phase I, directed a stay, which still continues.  

When the matter came before the Punjab and Haryana High Court in January, the Ministry told the Court that “it will not press for requirement of having a set top box as of now.” 

In view of this, Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain had dismissed as infructuous a petition by cable operator Parbobh Rattan seeking extension the ground that there was shortage of STBs.

Counsel Vivek Singla had told the Court that “the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India has decided not to press the requirement of having a STB as for now till the decision of the cases, which are pending before various other Honourable High Courts.”

Earlier, Assistant Solicitor General Chetan Mittal was informed through a letter by an under secretary, Anil Kumar, that legal opinion was clear that the interpretation of the Bombay High Court was clear that the earlier orders of the Hyderabad High Court relating to Andhra Pradesh and Telengana applied to the entire country. 

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