Even as the Madras High Court is hearing the Cable TV digitisation case, it is learnt that state-run MSO Arasu Cable Corporation has placed orders for set top boxes. The Rs 200 crore order has been bagged by Vedanta Group company Sterlite Technologies .
It must be noted Arasu Cable Corporation is yet to get licence for DAS from the I&B Ministry. Arasu is the only MSO which did not get licence, while other seven MSOs did.
Meanwhile digitisation programme in Chennai is further delayed as the Madras High Court decided to postponed the hearing to Tuesday. Meanwhile cross section of Local Cable Operators (LCOs) in Chennai today challenged the Centre’s notification to implement cable TV digitisation programme in Chennai. This will be the first petition to be challenged from Chennai, one of the four metros which was earmarked for digitisation.
Today’s development, to challenge the Centre’s Digitisation programme after the two Judge Bench of the Madras High Court today asked the LCOs why they have not challenged the notification yet. It may be noted, a similar petition was filed at Bombay High Court, but was rejected.
The Counsel representing the LCOs said that he could not reach the Challenge petition copy to all the respondents and seeked time. Hearing the plea, the Court posted the matter for Tuesday.
Earlier on Wednesday a Counsel representing the LCOs argued that the problem to implement the Programme is infrastructure (set-top boxes), which are not available in India.
The judge intervened and asked how did other metros implemented then, if enough boxes are not available in the country.
Another Counsel representing MSOs said that around two million boxes were imported and in the last year none of the LCOs have placed order to them.
Hearing the arguments the Court has asked the LCOs why they have not challenged the digitisation programme itself? Following which the LCOs, numbering 738 of the total 1100 LCOs in Chennai market, today challenged the programme itself.
It may be noted the deadline for implementation of cable television digitisation programme at Chennai was extended for the third time on November 9 till 19th as the matter was not heard by the Court, the cable connections continued.
The programme was originally planned on October 31, 2012 but was getting extended since the Madras High Court was hearing a petition filed by the Cable operators and Tamil Nadu Government-run MSO for extension of the deadline.
In the petition, they have said, enough set top boxes are not available in the market to meet the requirement of customers.
On October 31, the Madras High Court given a stay order extending the deadline for switching to digitisation to November 5, the date fixed up by the Madras High Court. On November 5, the date Court heard Counsels representing Arasu Cable Corporation, I&B Ministry and other DTH operators.
During the heated argument the Counsel represented Arasu Cable Corporation asked 18 weeks time to supply the boxes from the time of placing order.
The Counsel said, Arasu Cable is negotiating for a good price, from the time of placing the order the suppliers are asking for 18 weeks time.
Earlier he said, the Corporation don’t want to burden the Public and Cable is part of State Government’s welfare scheme so we want to get the best price.
The entire process cannot be completed within the mandated time of October 31, 2012 and had sought extension for the implementation of DAS in Chennai.
Responding to Arasu’s appeal, the Counsel representing the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said “if they (Arasu Cable) commits December 31, 2012 as time for implementation, then we will consider to extend the deadline”.
Hearing both the sides, the Court said the matter will be heard on November 9 and, during the hearing as one of the Multi System Operator (MSO) called JAK Communication asked for time to file an affidavit, the Court posted the matter for November 19 and again the matter was posted for November 20 and 21.
Earlier the Court said that the issue involves public interest and should be considered in a division bench in the next sitting.
Johnson D Kennedy, president of the Association said while around 40 lakh set-top boxes are needed, only around 1.6 lakh active set-top boxes are in the city at present. Earlier, industry sources said that around 32 lakh households in Chennai may not be able to go out from the cable network if the Government decision comes into effect from November 1, as scheduled by the Government.