The Bombay High Court on Wednesday rejected cable television operators’ plea to extend the deadline for digitisation. The extension granted by the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry expired on Wednesday.
A division bench of Justices Justices Dhananjay Chandrachud and R.G. Ketkar accepted the Ministry’s submission that installation of set top boxes in Mumbai “has been substantially completed” and boxes were available in sufficient numbers. “We are assured by the Union government that steps have been taken to ensure that access to TV coverage will not be interrupted during the [upcoming Diwali] festival,” Justice Chandrachud said.
The government told the court that sufficient time had been given to the cable operators to comply with the Ministry’s notification issued in November 2011, mandating the rollout of digitisation from June 30 this year. On June 28, the Ministry extended the deadline to October 31. “The extension was given so that they [cable operators] comply,” additional solicitor general Kevic Setalvad told the court. He argued that prices of the boxes were not exorbitant.
The court rapped the cable operators for suppressing facts in their petition. “The petition suffers from serious suppression of material facts. The petitioners, despite receiving their licences on June 28, have failed to ensure a bone fide compliance with their obligations… A certain degree of inconvenience is inevitable in the enforcement of any deadline,” Justice Chandrachud observed.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena MLA Anil Parab has called an agitation by cable operators on November 1 against the Central government’s policy.