Keeping at abeyance the sealing of illegal mobile phone towers in the city, the Delhi High Court on Monday ordered the central government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to form a panel and file a report by Sep 15 on regulation of towers.
Justice Kailash Gambhir said the department of telecommunications and the MCD commissioner will set up the committee of medical and technical experts and NGO representatives to look into health risk caused by illegal towers and the regulation policy for towers adopted in developed countries.
“The secretary, telecommunications, and the commissioner, MCD, shall constitute a broad-based committee of technical and medical experts who can examine all these various studies and the technology and policy adopted by the developed countries in regulating the installation of cellular towers and antennas,” the court said.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, MCD Additional Commissioner R.K. Srivastava said: “We will abide by the high court orders.”
Justice Gambhir said that till the time the court does not come up with a final decision on the matter, the telecom operators will deposit Rs.2 lakh per each illegal tower in the high court.
“And if two mobile companies are sharing a tower, then an additional Rs.50,000 should be deposited,” said Justice Gambhir, hearing a petition filed by cellphone operators against a sealing drive launched by the MCD against illegal towers.
The sealing drive against illegal towers is on hold for now.
There are 5,364 mobile phone towers within the MCD’s jurisdiction in the city. Of these, as many as 2,952 have been declared illegal for having come up without the civic agency’s authorisation.
Under the revised MCD guidelines unveiled Feb 9, the licence fee to be paid by a telecom operator to the civic agency for installing a tower has been increased from Rs.1 lakh to Rs.5 lakh.
Cellular operators have, in their petition, termed the hike totally arbitrary. “The licence fee earlier was Rs.1 lakh for 20 years, which has now been increased to Rs.5 lakh for a period of five years. When the MCD increased the fees, did it make any arrangement to increase the facilities attached to the tower?”
The MCD has sealed about 300 towers in the past few months. But 41 were again made operational after the phone companies completed the formalities.
According to the civic agency, mobile operators who have set up towers illegally were given one month’s time to get these regularised. The deadline expired in the first week of May.
On the last date of hearing, the MCD informed the court that it is not ready to lower the licence fee.
The court on May 13 restrained the MCD from sealing illegal mobile towers till May 24, while asking the civic agency to explain the grounds for hiking the licence fee.
The MCD had filed a detailed reply explaining the rationale behind the increase in the licence fee and said: “Our main concern is to regularise the towers as they are a great health hazard and public at large will suffer.”
But the court was not impressed with the MCD’s reply and said: “Your reply is not satisfactory and you failed to establish the correlation between the fee hike and the benefits linked to it.”