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Stay on panel for Delhi’s mobile phone towers

New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Friday stayed a single bench order asking the central government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to form a panel to study health risks caused by mobile phone towers.

Hearing an appeal filed by the MCD against the single bench order of May 31, a division bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Madan B. Lokur stayed the formation of the panel and issued notice to the cellular operators association and the telecom ministry to file their responses by July 8.

The court also directed the cellular operators to pay Rs.2 lakh as licence fee and said the operators shall now pay Rs.1 lakh as fee and a fixed deposit of Rs.1 lakh which will be in the custody of the MCD.

On May 31, Justice Kailash Gambhir asked the department of telecommunications and the MCD commissioner to set up a committee of medical and technical experts and NGO representatives to look into health risks caused by phone towers and the regulation policy for such towers adopted in developed countries.

The sealing drive against illegal towers is on hold for now. The stay on sealing will continue till July 12.

There are 5,364 mobile phone towers within MCD’s jurisdiction. Of these, 2,952 have been declared illegal for coming 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 had 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 five years. When the MCD increased the fees, did it make any arrangement to increase the facilities attached to the tower?’ the petition said.

The MCD has sealed about 300 towers in recent months. But 41 of them were made operational again after the companies completed the formalities.

According to the civic agency, mobile operators, who have set up towers illegally, were given one month to get these regularised. The deadline expired in the first week of May.

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