HP HC | Petition filed highlighting the plight of residents of the State regarding internet services in view of virtual classes/courtrooms etc; Elaborate suggestions laid down

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Chander Singh Barowalia JJ.  directed the respondents to comply with the directions given and report compliance on the next date of hearing.

The instant petition has been filed as Pro bono Publico by the petitioner highlighting therein the plight of the residents of the State, more particularly, the residents of the rural and backward areas of the State in the matters regarding internet services.

Some of the suggestions which require immediate attention have been handed over to the Court which are as follows:

  • Replace Building Completion Certificate with Structure Suitability Certificate- The Court directed Chief Engineer, HPPWD to convene a meeting of the representatives of the Town and Country Planning, Information Technology, Rural Development, Urban Development and Municipal Corporation, Shimla, to look into the feasibility of replacing the condition of submission of Building Completion Certificate with Structure Suitability Certificate alone or in alternate, making a provision for granting the completion certificates floorwise for ensuring the structure suitability.

It was further directed that “A three member committee be appointed to check the structure stability and once the building is found to be fit, then grant No Objection Certificate(s) for installation of the towers.”

  • Construction of Common Duct: It is pointed out by the Engineer in Chief, HPPWD that on account of high cost of ducts, the State government is not in a position to take any decision in this regard. However, we have impressed upon him to work out the feasibility of incorporating the conditions of construction of own ducts in the tendered documents, which could be on the same line as that of BoT and the provision for having compensatory cost paid to the HPPWD, when any of the other stake holders, more particularly of the governmental sectors want to share or use the ducts in question.

Implementation/inclusion of clause for construction of common ducts in bids/tender documents should be mandatory while construction/widening of roads. The utilization of common ducts will enable faster roll out of telecom infra and at the same time inconvenience to general public towards digging of roads can be avoided.

  • Review of RoW Charges: there should be no RoW charges or the same should be at a far lesser rate than the one being currently charged. The Chief Engineer to the Govt of H. P. assured the Court that the proper exercise regarding the same would be undertaken and the compliance report shall be placed before this Court on the next date of hearing.
  • National Building Code for inbuilding fibre: A suggestion has been put across that all the drawings/approvals for such urban development projects should include National Building Code for inbuilding fiber for faster roll out of telecom infrastructure for faster service delivery. Since the Court lacks expertise in this field, we direct the state to constitute a state level coordination committee to put forth suggestions in its report and the decision taken by it be placed before this Court on the next date of hearing.
  • Penalty clause on fibre cut: A suggestion has been put across that the penalty clause on fibre cut need to be included in all tendered documents/bids by various departments of the State to minimize and restore the service swiftly. This indeed is a valuable suggestion and the same needs to be considered by the State level coordination committee.
  • Offering State Govt Land and Buildings for Telecom Infra: suggestion has been put forth that offering of government land and building should be at token amount of rent for first years and other promotions at par with the industry. The targets for offering state government land and buildings needs to be fixed to all districts for faster roll out of services. We again find this suggestion to be meaningful and therefore, we direct the same to be placed in the next meeting of the state level Coordination meeting.
  • Dig once and Call before you Dig Policy: Dig once and ‘Call before you Dig policy should be encourgaged as part of State’s policy to avoid unnecessary breakdown of services. Committee ought to meet regularly that too on monthly basis, so that recommendations and observations of the committee can be effectively implemented. Accordingly, the state level coordination: committee shall consider desirability of holding monthly meetings.

The matter is next listed for 05-01-2022.[Vandana Misra v. State of HP, CWP No. 3123 of 2021, decided on 22-12-2021]


Appearances

Ms. Vandana Misra, Counsel for petitioner in person in CWP No. 3123 of 2021.

Mr. Anup Rattan, Counsel for petitioner in CWP No. 1398 of 2018.

Counsel for respondent 1- Mr. Ashok Sharma, with Mr. Rajinder Dogra, Mr. Shiv Pal Manhans and Mr. Hemanshu Misra

Counsel for respondent 4- Mr.Balram Sharma

Counsel for respondent 6 BSNL- Mr.Vijay Kumar Arora

Counsel for respondent 7- Mr. Abhishek Banta

Counsel for respondent 8-   Mr. B.C. Negi, with Mr. Nitin Thakur,

Counsel for respondent 10- Mr.Tara Singh Chauhan

Counsel for respondent 11-   Mr. Nimish Gupta.

Counsel for respondent 12- Mr. Mukesh Thakur

Counsel for respondent 13- Mr. Sandeep Dutta


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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