After plaintiffs failed to make a prima facie case to halt the installation of mobile towers on grounds of violation of laws or fears of electromagnetic radiation, the Kalyan Civil Court, Mumbai, turned down their plea today. The court arrived at the decision in the absence of any evidence that the erection of the mobile tower and base centre was illegal or violated any laws or rules.

On the basis of a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, and the committee of experts constituted as per the writ petition, the court observed that there was no substance in the argument that electromagnetic emissions are hazardous to human life.

The shortage of towers will affect the quality of services (Image credit: Getty Images)

Court turns down application to halt mobile tower construction (Image Credit: Getty Images)

As per an official statement by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the government of India recently adopted the most stringent safety guidelines for electric and magnetic field (EMF) exposure, which is a tenth of the ICNIRP standards. These standards are considered to be the safest in the world with over 90 percent of the countries having adopted the ICNIRP guidelines. At the same time, the government has also acknowledged that there is no conclusive evidence that can link EMF emissions from mobile base stations to health hazards, and that the lowering of exposure limits is a precautionary measure.

The COAI welcomed the court’s order and stated that it vindicates the industry’s long-standing position that mobile towers and base stations in India are fully compliant with the safety, environmental, and health norms prescribed by the government of India. The COAI states that the court's decision puts to rest many concerns raised by sections of the media on the issue recently. According to the COAI, the industry has voluntarily undertaken proactive measures to allay the concerns of citizens. The telecom industry has undergone a massive transition in its network infrastructure, which was redesigned significantly to meet the prescribed norms. Considering the scarce spectrum resources available in India compared with other countries, the population density and call traffic, it was an extremely difficult task in itself.

Rajan S Mathews, director general, COAI, commented, “The industry has always been compliant with norms related to exposure limits and will continue to work actively along with the Department of Telecom to ensure that compliance is maintained in this area. We are hopeful that our partnership with the government, with civic bodies and citizens will continue to assuage the concerns that the public have regarding the health effects of EMF emissions from mobile towers and ensure that they are informed of the true scientific facts on the matter and be assured that their safety is being safeguarded with utmost sincerity and priority by the industry.”

Just this morning, there were reports of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issuing notices to the Centre and seven telecom firms, following a plea alleging that norms for the installation of mobile phone towers have been flouted. The report comes at a time when the nation is amidst a hot debate over health concerns surrounding the installation of mobile towers and the subsequent radiation emissions. The NGT has directed the telcos to not install any more mobile towers without adhering to the mandatory provisions of law, and without getting the required permission from the competent authority. The decision was made by the bench of the Tribunal comprising acting chairperson Justice A S Naidu and expert member P C Mishra. 

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