A 42-year old domestic help, Harish Chand Tiwari, from Gwalior, had moved the Supreme Court last year complaining that a BSNL tower illegally installed on a neighbour’s rooftop in 2002 has been exposing him to harmful electromagnetic radiation for the last 14 years, thus, afflicting him with cancer.
In a first, the apex court directed that the mobile phone tower be shut.
As reported by The Times of India, the bench said in its order, “We direct that the particular mobile tower shall be deactivated by BSNL within 7 days from today.”
Tiwari claimed that the BSNL tower, situated 50 metres from the house where he worked, afflicted him with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma caused by continuous and prolonged exposure to radiation. The tower will be the first to be shut on an individual’s petition alleging harmful radiation.
The SC began hearing the issue of cell towers since March 18 last year, and had asked the parties to file further documents showing that the radiation from such towers were harmful to humans and animals.
Various activists have alleged that the radiation from mushrooming cell towers have caused the vanishing of sparrows, crows and bees.
However, the Cellular Operators Association of India and the Union government have vehemently denied the allegations, adding that these were baseless fears that weren’t backed by any scientific study that links mobile phone tower radiation to cancer or the vanishing of the animals.
In an affidavit submitted by the Department of Telecom (DoT) before the SC on October 2015, it said that out of the 12 lakh cell towers in the country, 3.30 lakh towers were checked and only 212 towers were found exceeding the maximum radiation limit. Such towers were fined to the amount of Rs 10 lakh each. So far, Rs 10 crore has been collected as penalty from cellular towers, it added.
DoT had referred to a WHO report as well as 25,000 articles published in the last 30 years to confirm that there were no reported health consequences from exposure to low level of electromagnetic radiation.
In 2014, a parliamentary committee suggested that the Union government carry out a scientific study by a credible government agency on the impact of telecommunication, cellular towers, and handsets on human beings. The DoT informed the court that the study had been undertaken. However, private petitioners had alleged that no such study had been conducted.