Court refuses to extend deadline
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The Bombay High Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition seeking extension of the deadline for compulsory digitisation of cable TV in Mumbai. The High Court gave its decision barely seven hours before the deadline set by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was to end.
A Division Bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and R G Ketkar said in its order, "In our view, the Union government has provided sufficient time for compliance of the order. A certain degree of hardship and inconvenience is inevitable when putting any such deadline in place." The order means that people who have not installed a set top box will have their TVs blacked out by midnight between October 31 and November 1.
The petition seeking extension of time had been filed by Bhawani Rajesh Cable and Digitech. Justice Chandrachud had initially expressed the possibility of granting an extension of a month for making the digitisation mandatory. "Are the heavens going to fall if the deadline is extended? We don't want TVs in homes blacked out during Diwali time."
However, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Kevic Setalvad opposed the suggestion, noting that sufficient time had been given and that the notification had been widely publicised. "The government has spent a lot of money on issuing ads in newspapers and TV, asking people to instal set top boxes. People like the petitioners should have ensured that the boxes are installed in households," said Setalvad. He also pointed out that the deadline had already been extended to October 31 from June 30. Agreeing with the ASG's contentions, Justice Chandrachud said, "In June, you knew that you had time till October. What have you done till today?"
Earlier, arguing for a group of multi-system operators, who had intervened in the case, their counsel V A Thorat told the court that several cable operators are facing difficulties in complying with the deadline. Thorat noted that most of the set top boxes have to be imported from China and claimed that the decision of the government has been supported by a "lobby of DTH operators". He contended that households where cable operators are not able to provide set top boxes would have to approach DTH operators. However, the court rejected Thorat's arguments and the petition.
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