The Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday directed the cellular and tower provider companies to get all the illegal towers approved from the Chandigarh administration.
The direction came from the high court bench of justices SK Mittal and MS Chauhan following claims and counter claims on the number of towers and their approvals between the administration and cellular and tower provider companies.
The high court has directed the petitioners, Towers and Infrastructure Providers Association and Cellular Operators Association of India to file applications for approval of illegal towers before the administration within three weeks and the Chandigarh administration has been asked to take a decision on their applications within another four weeks from the receipt of these applications.
The high court also directed the UT administration to accept these applications with Rs 2.5 lakh as fee, which is half the amount fixed by the administration for installation of each tower.
Earlier, the petitioners informed the high court that there were a total of 255 towers in the city, 31 of them had permissions, while in many cases, the applications for approval of installation of these towers were either pending or rejected by the administration. “Eighty percent of these towers are not illegal as per the guidelines of the Central government,” petitioner’s counsel Rajiv Atma Ram told the high court.
On the other hand, UT’s counsels, Sanjeev Sharma and Shekhar Verma, disputed the figures given by the petitioners. “Eighty percent of the towers installed by them are illegal. Only 20% conform to the policy of the administration,” Sharma told the high court.
The UT also tried to justify the Rs 5-lakh fee fixed for granting approval to install towers stating that it was a small city and such a fee was not unjustified. “We are giving them designated sites in close proximity to the sites where they have installed towers. They want regularisation of the illegally installed towers so that they don’t have to relocate them, which is in violation of the policy,” Sharma added.
However, counsel for the petitioners argued that the fee being contemplated by the UT was very high as compared to states like Himachal, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh etc. “Central government policy does not bar us from installing towers in residential areas and the UT has to abide by the decision of Central government. How could UT policy be in conflict with the Central government rules,” Atma Ram argued.
Later, the high court bench observed that it would deal with the issue of policy matter later and asked the petitioners to get their illegal towers approved from the UT and posted the matter for further hearing till January 12. The UT has also been asked to not to take any coercive measures till further orders.
The associations had approached the high court stating that the administration be stopped from levying high licensing fee.
They had also submitted that the UT policy was in conflict with the guidelines framed by the Centre and there were unnecessary restrictions on the towers’ location, height, footprint, and equipment, besides the high fee.
The impugned policy of the UT does not allow installation of towers on certain category of buildings and also not allow them in residential areas. The fee for installation of towers has also been increased from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for a period of seven years as per the policy rolled out by the UT.