Patna, Feb. 22: The high court has asked the government not to take coercive action against cellular service providers regarding payment of registration and annual renewal fees from the date they installed the mobile towers.
A division bench of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Shivaji Pandey, in its Tuesday order, also directed the state to file its counter affidavit on a petition challenging the validity of provisions of Bihar Municipal Act and Bihar Communication Towers and Related Structures Rules, 2012.
The government would not take any coercive action against the mobile phone tower operators till further order, the bench said, before referring the matter to a division bench headed by Chief Justice Rekha M. Doshit to hear the petition, as a similar case was pending before the chief justice’s court.
Two companies — ATC India Tower Corporation and Bharti Infratel — have challenged the Bihar Communication Towers and Related Structures Rules, 2012, which gave powers to municipal corporations to realise revenue from the mobile phone tower companies with retrospective effect i.e. the date from which towers were installed in the state.
The petition was filed on the ground that states were not empowered to regulate the operation and installation of mobile towers in any state, as it falls in the Centre’s domain.
Telecom falls in the Centre’s list and hence, the state government was not competent enough to make legislation to regulate telecom towers and that too with retrospective effect, the petition stated.
Referring to the Centre’s list to buttress his point, the lawyer of the firms submitted that entry 31 of the Union list enumerates that issues such as posts and telegraphs, telephones, wireless, broadcasting and other like forms of communication are to be controlled by the central government. Hence, the state government did not have power to enact a law in this regard.