Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mobile Phone Radiations: violations of HC rulings

Judicial pronouncements on mobile phone radiations

Mohamed Imranullah S.

— Photo: G. Moorthy
fear of the unseen:There are contrary views over possible hazards caused due to mobile phone towers such as this in Madurai.

MADURAI: "This is an urgent plea to environmentalists and to those within the telecommunications industry, to doctors and businesspeople and government officials, that microwave radiation is an imminent danger to all of us more or less equally and that for our common survival we must immediately halt the expansion of wireless communications upon this earth. There is no greater threat to our common future," wrote Arthur Firstenberg, an American author, on June 22, 1997.

Nearly 13 years have elapsed since the statement was made. Yet, the use of mobile phones has increased by leaps and bounds and it is hard to find a family without a mobile phone even in the remotest parts of a place like Madurai. There have been apprehensions on possible health hazards caused to people living near mobile base stations and many cases have also been filed. But, a majority of the judicial pronouncements have only ruled against these apprehensions.

K.V. Vijayakumar, a lawyer who shifted his practice from the Madras High Court Bench here to the Supreme Court, points out that disposing of a case filed in 2004, a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court had directed the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry to conduct a scientific study on the issue. Accordingly, a committee was constituted in 2006 under the chairmanship of N.K. Ganguly, the then Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research.

The Committee, after extensive deliberations, opined that overall there was not enough evidence to show direct health hazards of Radio Frequency (RF) exposures from mobile base stations though subjective symptoms such as sleep disorders, cognitive disorders, memory disturbances and hearing disturbances had been reported. It also said that RF exposures from mobile base stations were much less than from radio and television transmissions.

Further, the Atomic Regulatory Board also submitted a report before the Bombay High Court stating that RF waves used for mobile phones were not covered under the definition of the term 'radiation' as given in the Atomic Energy Act, 1962. It also stated that non-ionizing radiations do not have the capability to ionize the matter with which they react.

In 2000, the Radiation Protection Division of the U.K. Health Protection Agency had reported that the balance of evidence indicated that there was no general risk to health of people living near base stations. Even the Delhi High Court while disposing of an original suit filed in 2002 opined that so far there was neither any conclusive research nor authoritative scientific evidence to show that radiations emitted by such transmission towers were dangerous to the health of human beings.

Mr. Vijayakumar also points out that on October 12, 2006, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court headed by Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan (now a Supreme Court judge) had held that permission granted for installation of mobile base stations would neither cause any health hazard nor affect the fundamental right guaranteed to citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution.

"Right to life enshrined under Article 21 includes all those aspects of life which make it meaningful, complex and worth living. Development of Technology has its own ill-effects on human beings, but, at times people will have to put up with that at the cost of their advantages," the court had observed.

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