Mumbai: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has notified amendments in the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 thereby providing the operational mechanism for implementation of the decriminalised provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
The Ministry issued a notification appointing 3 October 2023 as the date from which provisions of the Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Act, 2023 and entries in the schedule thereto with respect to the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 has come into force.
Section 16 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 dealt with the punishment for contraventions under any of its provisions. This section had provision for imprisonment which might extend upto 2 years, in case of first instance and 5 years for every subsequent offence.
With an aim to make the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 more business-friendly and to boost the investor confidence in the sector, punishments specified under Section 16 were re-examined and were decriminalised through the Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provision) Act, 2023. The imprisonment provisions have been now replaced with monetary penalty and other non-monetary measures like Advisory, Warning and Censure. These measures will be enforced through the “designated officer” defined in the rules notified today. Moreover, Section 16 now introduces an appeal mechanism against the order made by the designated officer. Sections 17 and 18 were omitted for being redundant.
Some of the benefits of decriminalisation of provisions under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 are:
● The amendments are likely to encourage compliance with the Act without resorting to harsh punishments and are sensitive to minor or unintended contraventions. The inclusion of advisory, censure, and warnings in the range of penalties suggests focus is on educating and encouraging compliance rather than solely punishing contraventions.
● The amended provision allows for the use of a range of penalties, which provides flexibility in addressing different types of contraventions. It allows for a more proportional response to the nature, specificity and severity of the contravention.
● The amendment in the rules defines a “designated officer” for imposing penalties. This streamlines the enforcement process and makes it simple in addition to unburdening the criminal justice system.
● The amended provision explicitly addresses subsequent contraventions and in addition to the provision for higher penalties, includes the provisions for suspension or cancellation of registration. This promotes consistency and discourages habitual or repeated contraventions.
● The inclusion of an appeal mechanism provides individuals or entities the opportunity to challenge penalties or decisions. This ensures a fair and transparent process and safeguards against potential abuse of power.
● The definition of common terms in cable industry like “platform services” and “local cable operator” have been defined in the rules for the first time to bring about uniformity in their usages.
Currently, there are over 1400 Multi-system Operators registered with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Decriminalisation of the contraventions of provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and replacement with civil penalties shall boost stakeholders’ confidence and promote the ease of doing business.