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Sikkim joins three others states excluded from Digital Addressable System Phase III


Gangtok : The extension of Digital Addressable System (DAS) by three different High Courts affecting four states does not augur well for the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, which may see a catapulting of such cases as reports pour of just over 50 per cent of seeding of set top boxes (STBs). After the extension of deadline in both Telengana and Andhra Pradesh, the Sikkim High Court has ordered a stay on analogue cable television signals switch-off until 28 March. A stay had been ordered after the first phase by the Madras High Court for Tamil Nadu, which also remains in force, though the Madhya Pradesh High Court has rejected a petition by Om Systems of Indore challenging Section 4A of Cable Television Networks Regulation Act 1995. Phase III stipulated for analogue signals to be switched off in all urban areas of the country by 31 December, 2015. Justice Meenakshi Madan Rai of the Sikkim High Court said in her order on a petition by All Sikkim Cable Operators Association that subscribers will be affected for no fault of theirs. The petition was filed through Association president Roshan Rai. 

In the arguments, it was contended that multi-system and local cable operators had to bear a high cost of migrating to a digital addressable service (DAS) and there were no investors; the difficult terrain of the state was not conducive to laying of optical fibre Cables (OFC) required for Digital networks; Set-Top-Boxes were not easily available in the country; and time limits for migration to digital regime are almost impractical.The court also noted that the Association had written to Information and Broadcasting Ministry Secretary Sunil Arora on 26 November, 2015 apprising him of the constraints faced by the MSOs and LCOs and requesting for an extension of the deadline but the Ministry did not care to reply. The Court turned down a plea by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to be impleaded. The directive by the Hyderabad High Court was notable in that Justice Vilas V Afzalpurkar went against an order given by a division bench of which he was a member in the same court relating to Phase III on 20 August, 2013.

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