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SC scrutinises impact of mobile towers; seeks Centre’s report

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court today initiated a scrutiny of “deleterious” effects of radiation emanating from mobile towers and sought a report from the Centre on several aspects including steps taken to enforce standards for such emissions.

“What are adverse impacts of such mobile towers? Is there any agency to monitor? Have you (Department of Telecom) got a system in place to enforce the standards, if any, for radiation from such towers,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices C Nagappan and A M Khanwilkar asked.

The bench directed Additional Solicitor General P S Patwalia, appearing for the DoT, to file a report apprising the court about issues including the effects of radiation and steps taken to contain them.

During the hearing, the bench asked DoT how it has been enforcing standards for emission of radiation from these towers.

“Are the standards of radiation from cell towers in the country at par with international standards,” it asked, adding how many mobile towers have been installed by the service providers in the country so far and whether they have been checked by the DoT.
On being pointed out by lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for a Noida resident, that such towers have been installed in residential areas and near schools, the bench wanted to know from the government whether there were any regulations on the issue and if yes, what are those.

“How many violations of regulations have been reported,” the bench asked and sought information from DoT about the action taken so far against the violators.

The apex court also asked the government to set a time- frame to make all phone service providers “fully compliant” to radiation standards and norms.

“I need some time to respond,” Patwalia said. The bench then posted the batch of petitions, including the one filed by Noida resident Naresh Chand Gupta, for further hearing on October 17.

Earlier, the court had sought response from the Centre and others on a plea seeking protection of citizens from “deleterious” effects of radiation emanating from mobile towers.

Besides the Centre and DoT, the bench had also issued notices to Department of Telecommunications (DoT), New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA) and M/s Indus Towers Ltd, the firm which has installed some mobile towers in Noida.

The bench had then tagged the PIL filed by Gupta with other similar pending pleas on the issue.

Gupta, in his PIL, had referred to the deleterious effects of radiation, emanating from cell phone towers.

“There is a huge chunk of scientific data linking radiation from cell phones and towers to adverse health effects in people and animals.

“The adverse health effects range from headaches, sleep disturbances, dizziness and other neurophysiological disturbances to life-threatening brain tumours radiation from cell phones and towers has also been linked to sweeping decline in population of honey bees, sparrows and other birds and animals,” the petition had said.

The plea has sought a direction to DoT to “drastically reduce the exposure limit from cell towers and … cell phones keeping in line with stricter norms followed in other countries and recommendations of scientific studies”.

“Prohibit installation of cell towers within a distance of 500 metres from residential areas, schools, hospitals, markets and other places with dense human population, and wildlife habitation, and direct removal of towers already so installed,” it had said.

The plea had also sought creation of a mechanism for “continuous monitoring of radiation from cell towers and putting the data in public domain”.

Besides, the PIL has sought setting aside of the permission granted by the Noida authority to Indus Towers Ltd to install cell phone towers on the building of a community club of Sector 15 A in Noida and shift it to a green belt.

PTI

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