A body representing leading mobile service operators has moved the Supreme Court seeking a stay on a Rajasthan government order asking mobile operators to remove cell towers within 500 meters of jail premises by June 8. The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), in its application filed before the apex court, has also sought directions to the state government not to seal the mobile towers or taking any coercive step against the cellular operators in pursuance of the May 9 order.
The COAI said that cellular operators have 400 base transceiver stations (BTSs) within 500 meters of jail premises in the state, which include base station controllers sites, and these towers caters to around 80 lakh subscribers. If they are removed, it would result in poor quality of service. It said that its appeal against the November 27, 2012 judgement of Rajasthan High Court, which had directed removal of mobile towers from hospitals and schools within a period of two months and from 500 meters of jail within six months, was pending before the apex court.
The association claimed that the August 31, 2012 policy decision of the state government requiring removal of cell towers within 500 metres of jail premises has been “superseded” by the state on February 6 this year and presently, no such restriction exists. “It is submitted that not only there is no restriction now on establishing cell towers within 500 meters from the jail premises but also that the operators/applicants herein are entitled to establish towers inter alia on public/private locations including roads, parks, playgrounds, hospitals, schools, land earmarked for public utilities,” it claimed.
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It contended that the May 9 executive order was issued pursuant to an order of April 6, 2017 passed by the Rajasthan High Court which was based on government policy of August 31, 2012 which has now been superseded by the “new policy”.
The COAI contended that “since no policy restraining establishment of towers within 500 meters of jail premises exists, therefore, the executive order dated May 9, 2017 need not be implemented by the operators/applicants herein.”