Malad residents oust illegal cell tower from terrace
Builder of Keval Tower had allowed a company to erect the structure without informing residents, or taking permission from the civic body; court and civic officials intervened after housing society protested
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In a city where might is right, the civic body has for the first time responded with alacrity and cracked the whip on a builder who illegally installed a cell phone tower on the terrace of Keval Tower Co-operative Society in Malad (West) without obtaining the required permission from the BMC. The tower was dismantled recently.
Steely determination: The residents of the building had to appeal to
court, the Kandivli department of the building proposal department, and
Municipal Commissioner Subodh Kumar, before they managed to get the
illegal tower removed from their terrace
The 14-floor tower is just one-and-a-half years old, but residents claim that the builder leased its terrace to cellular companies for the installation of a cellular tower, even before they took possession of their flats.
The matter slowly unfolded when residents of the tower realised that the cell phone tower was exposing them to severe radiation hazards, and unanimously agreed to push for their removal. The decision was taken at the general body meeting held on April 1, 2011. They duly notified the cellular company, M/s Indus Tower Ltd, to remove the same, but were shocked when the company retaliated by slapping a case against the society in the city civil court in Dindoshi.
Society Chairman Ramakant Biradar confirmed the development, saying, "We have registered a complaint with the BMC and they have responded to it. The builder had not taken any permission from the BMC, the fire brigade or the police for the towers, and as such they were illegal. The tower was acting as feeders for many other mobile towers in and around the vicinity, and we feared that the high levels of radiation would be harmful to the health of our families. So we decided that we didn't want any towers on our terrace."
The society then appointed an advocate Piyush Shah, who approached the Bombay High Court, pointing out that a civil court had no say in the matter. He pointed out to the Court that the matter fell under the jurisdiction of the Small Causes Court, located in Bandra.
"The court, taking cognisance of the point made during the argument, gave the cellular company two options - move the appropriate court or remove the tower within a period of 30 days," said Shah.
In its complaint, the society even alleged that the builder had taken monthly maintenance fees - ranging between Rs 5,000-6,000 per month, from January 2011, but had not bothered to deposit the amount in the society account. Neither had the builders submitted proper records. They also complained that they had been kept in the dark about the agreement reached between the builder and cellular company.
Kalpesh Mehta, a committee member of the society said, "The builder had entered into a lease agreement with M/s Indus Tower Ltd in December 2009 for a period of five years. The lease allowed the company to use an area of approximately 250 square feet to install signaling equipments. The two parties agreed that the builders would be receiving over Rs 5 lakh per year, and the amount would be increased after three years. The cell tower company, however, was allegedly using over 1,500 sq feet of the terrace space. Apart from antennas, a tower and a feeder cabin, the entire terrace and building had a mesh of cables spread over it."
No permission taken
When they observed that the cellular company was not lifting a finger to remove the towers, residents approached the local building proposal department. It was then that they realised that the builder had taken no permission from the BMC or other statutory bodies before allowing installation of the said towers. An official complaint was lodged with the Kandivli department of the building proposal department. However, even this body failed to take any action. Finally, the society's representatives met Municipal Commissioner Subodh Kumar, who immediately intervened, asking the concerned department to take necessary action.
The Other Side
When contacted, an Indus Tower official confirmed that the tower had been removed from the building, but refused to speak any further on the matter.
Niranjan Shah, partner of M/s Rushab Enterprises, the builders, said, "There are few residents who bear grudges against us, and are levelling baseless allegations against us. We have handed over the possession of the building long ago, and the cellular towers on the building terrace has already been removed."
Asked why his firm had not taken any of the necessary permission from civic and other statutory bodies, he said that said that there was no such current practice in the city.