Sealing of Delhi’s illegal mobile phone towers put off till Monday

New Delhi, May 19 (IANS) Restraining Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) from sealing illegal mobile towers till next Monday, the Delhi High Court Wednesday questioned the agency on the rationale behind hiking the licence fee for towers.

Justice Kailash Gambhir asked the civic agency to explain on what grounds the licence fee was hiked and whether any proposal was passed in the MCD house on the issue.

Under the revised MCD guidelines unveiled Feb 9, the amount to be paid by a telecom operator to the civic agency for installing a tower has been increased from the present Rs.1 lakh to Rs.5 lakh.

Arguing on behalf of the cellular operators association, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: ‘Hike by the MCD is totally arbitrary.’

Singhvi contended that since the licence of the cellular operators is valid for 20 years, the licence fee for the towers should also be valid for the same period.

‘The towers’ licence fee earlier was Rs.1 lakh for 20 years which has now been increased to Rs.5 lakh for a period of 5 years. When the MCD increased the fees, did it make any arrangement to increase the facilities attached to the towers,’ Singhvi said.

Senior advocate Parag Tripathi, appearing for MCD, said: ‘All over the world same norms are being followed with respect to the mobile phone towers. Our sole criteria for sealing these towers is health hazard.’

Singhvi objected to MCD’s new guideline that a no objection certificate is required from every owner of the building before installation of a tower and said: ‘When they are hiking the fees, then such type of clauses should not be included.’

On May 13, the high court stayed the sealing of illegal towers and asked the MCD and the cellular operators association to resolve the issue amicably.

There are 5,364 mobile phone towers in MCD’s jurisdiction. Of these, as many as 2,952 have been declared illegal for having come up without the civic agency’s authorisation.

The MCD 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 erected towers illegally were given one month’s time to get them regularised. The deadline expired in the first week of May.

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