In a move likely to affect the setting up of 4,000 proposed mobile towers for fourth generation (4G) high-speed internet, the Bombay high court (HC) on Monday restrained the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) from permitting any more towers on public spaces such as playgrounds, recreational grounds, parks and gardens.
The division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice AK Menon was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Alliance for Governance and Renewal (NAGAR) Trust and others, challenging the validity of a government notification amending the development control rules (DCRs) for the city. The amendment permits the construction of mobile phone towers on non-buildable reservations such as playgrounds, recreational grounds, parks and gardens to the extent of 100 sqm or 5% of the total area of the open space.
The counsel for the petitioner, Aspi Chinoy, submitted that the draft notification to amend the DCRs, which was published in October 2013, had specifically excluded open spaces, but changes were made to the final notification to allow mobile phone towers.
Chinoy submitted this was contrary to the procedural requirements of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, as it has modified the DCR without notifying people or giving them an opportunity to raise objections or give suggestions. He said the change was made based on a representation by three mobile service provider companies.
Chinoy said the state cannot allow mobile phone towers on public open spaces, where children spend considerable time, when towers are not allowed in the vicinity of schools, colleges and hospitals on grounds of health risk.
Additional government pleader Geeta Shastri said the PIL was filed belatedly, as the final notification amending the DCR was published in March 2014. However, taking note of the purported illegality, the judges issued the restraining order and suggested the state government come out with a new draft notification, and take people’s objections and suggestions to it.
The bench has posted the hearing after two weeks.