SC stays HC order for removal of mobile towers in Chandigarh

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: May 25 2012, 08:57am hrs
Vodafone South Ltd (erstwhile Hutchison Essar South Ltd) on Thursday moved the Supreme Court against the Punjab and Haryana High Courts order that directed immediate removal of 180 mobile towers in residential areas of the Union Territory of Chandigarh.

A bench headed by Justice Deepak Verma sought response from the Centre (department of telecommunications), the Chandigarh administration, estate officer and others on the issue. It also stayed the high courts orders that asked the service providers to remove their towers immediately, if they did not comply with the EMF rediation norms laid down by the DoT in November last year.

Challenging the May 14 and May 22 orders of the high court, Vodafone said that the consequence of the such orders is that the mobile services in Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana will come to a virtual halt and would not only prejudice it and other service providers but will also cause grave inconvenience to the public at large.

Even no final policy with respect to the mobile towers in residential areas has been yet finalised by Chandigarh, it said, adding that in these circumstances the order of removal of mobile towers is unsustainable in law.

...the high court has relied on the parameters of EMF radiation as laid down in the office memorandum dated November 17, 2011 issued by DoT without appreciating that the parameters... were to come into effect from September 1, 2012, the petition filed through Karanjawala & Co stated.

According to the company, the high court had passed the impugned orders on the basis that notices for demolition have been issued to the companies whereas the fact of the matter is that mere showcause notices were issued under Punjab (development and regulation) Act, 1952 and rules made thereunder and the Punjab new capital (Periphery) control Act, 1952, thus the impugned orders are in clear violation of the principles of natural justice.

Vodafone, which was granted to start mobile services in Punjab and Chandigarh in 2004, had installed 400 cell sites/towers on roof tops of buildings and claims to have invested about R500 crore in the cellular network of the Punjab circle and around R50 crore in the Union Territory of Chandigarh till July 2007.

The high court had earlier in February asked the Chandigarh administration to notify its policy on the issue of mobile towers in residential areas within a period of one month after examining the objections filed by the mobile companies.

The companies had also opposed the draft policy prepared by the administration in 2004 wherein the UT had decided not to allow any mobile companies to install their towers in residential areas. The policy stated that mobile towers would be allowed to be installed only in commercial buildings which have completion certificates and their building plans sanctioned.

The high court order had come on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by residents of the city, who had demanded that no mobile towers should be allowed to come up in residential areas due to health reasons.