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Supreme Court stays removal of mobile phone towers near prisons in Rajasthan

May 30, 2017

The Supreme Court has stayed the Rajasthan government’s order asking mobile operators to remove their towers within 500 metres of the jail premises in the state by June 8, 2017. This was in response to a plea filed by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) challenging the state government’s order.

The Rajasthan government on May 9, 2017 had ordered telecom operators to decommission their mobile towers near the prisons. This followed a Rajasthan High Court order of April 6, 2017. Subsequently, COAI filed a petition in the Supreme Court contending that the high court, when it passed its order, was not told that the August 31, 2012 policy which barred installation of cell towers within 500 metres of jail premises was superseded by a February 6, 2017 policy. The policy released in February 2017 permitted setting up cell towers not only within 500 metres of jails but also on public and private locations including parks, playgrounds, hospitals, schools and government-owned or -controlled buildings and lands under cultivation. However, this policy was amended saying that the permission for setting up cell towers should not be given in these areas/premises if barred by a competent court.

The mobile service providers had sought direction from the Supreme Court that they should not be asked to remove the towers nor would the government take steps to seal them or take any coercive steps against the operators. The operators had contended that that the order would impact 8 million subscribers as the entire exercise would involve removal of 400 base transceiver stations (BTSs) including base station controllers sites which further cater to 2,500 BTSs.


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