No CAS Bill discussion due to RS uproar; debate anytime time available

NEW DELHI: The fate of conditional access system is becoming increasingly uncertain - something that was looking highly unlikely about a fortnight back when information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj was pushing full steam for the passage to amendments in the CATV Act in the Upper House of Parliament.

The cable TV network Regulation Amendment Bill 2002, slated to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) today, could not be done today as both the Houses of Parliament were adjourned for the day on Monday without transacting any business. Reason: Opposition uproar over the Indian Express expose on the doling out of petrol pump dealerships to ruling party members as well as coalition partners of the government by the petroleum ministry under the alleged directives of the Union petroleum minister Ram Naik. A vociferous Opposition stalled question hour.

As per the latest information available is that the issue will be taken up as soon as the Rajya Sabha is able to find the time to debate the issue. That means that it can even come up tomorrow if the current ruckus going on in Parliament cools down. Something that looks highly at the moment though.

Today's trouble arose as soon as the House met for the day with a determined Opposition raising anti-government slogans like istifado, istifado and loot liya, loot liya (resign and plundered).

As the uproar continued for 10 minutes, Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha Najma Heptulla adjourned the House for the day.

The Lok Sabha was also adjourned for 15 minutes after it plunged into turmoil over the same issue with an unrelenting Opposition demanding Naik's resignation.

Government officials told this afternoon that it has to be seen when the Bill gets re-listed in the RS now. "If the Opposition continues to stall proceedings of the House over other issues, then the CAS issue may not get discussed at all," an I&B ministry official indicated.

However, there seems to be unanimity amongst Opposition members of the Rajya Sabha, especially the CPM and the Congress, that the CAS issue needs to be referred to a parliamentary committee to be discussed further as some issues in the Bill need thorough examination.

Nilotpaul Basu of the CPM, a member of RS, in private is understood to have said that their meeting with Swaraj last week was "inconclusive" and that the minister was unable to satisfactorily explain Opposition queries on freedom of media, specially electronic media, and that the government was attempting to muzzle the media in the aftermath of the Gujarat communal violence by bringing in censorship in the form of CAS where the government will decide which free to air channels will be aired in which part of the country.

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