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Tower firms move HC on seal drive

Ranchi Regional Development Authority’s (RRDA) crackdown on unauthorised mobile phone towers in the state capital has prompted five companies that have set up the masts to move Jharkhand High Court on Wednesday.

Viom Networks Limited, Tower Vision India Limited, Reliance Infratel, Vodafone Spacetel Limited and Chennai Networks Infrastructure Limited have filed a petition at the high court, securing protecting against the RRDA order that was passed in August 2013. However, the sealing drive began just last week.

The court is expected to hear the case on Thursday.

According to the petition, RRDA on July 5 ordered sealing of two towers, belonging to Viom Networks Limited, at Mahilong in the state capital in the absence of the mandatory no-objection certificates.

But the companies have argued that after the RRDA came out with a directive to shut down every unauthorised tower to prevent apparently harmful exposure to electromagnetic radiation last year, they had appealed before the agency’s appellate authority.

With the appellate authority yet to pass its order, the matter is sub-judice and hence, the RRDA’s latest action against mobile tower companies is against norms, the petitioners claimed.

The same reason had prompted the RRDA not to carry out its order till recently.

The companies further said they had not been given an opportunity to explain themselves before the crackdown was suddenly launched.

A rough survey shows around 500 mobile phone masts in areas under the Ranchi Municipal Corporation’s (RMC) jurisdiction. Official records suggest 23 are guilty of “unregulated construction”, which means they didn’t secure or violated clearances from the RRDA and Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board.

These have been raised by at least 10 different telecom operators.

Mobile towers are said to be hazardous because they emit microwaves at a frequency of 1900MHz. Studies have shown that the intense radioactivity from such a station adversely impacts every biological organism within one square kilometre. Hence, installing towers at a safe distance is a primary criterion.

The Supreme Court has imposed a ban on installation of mobile towers near schools, college, hospitals and residential areas because microwave radiation is often perceived as “potentially carcinogenic”.

Deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey, also the vice-chairman of RRDA, had said on Monday that the crackdown would continue till all rogue mobile phone masts were sealed.