Thursday, October 5, 2023

State Govt Has Power To Impose Permit Fee On Erection Of Mobile Towers : Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court has held that a State Government has the competence to impose permit fees on the erection of mobile towers. The Court rejected the argument that the State cannot realise the permit fee on mobile towers in the absence of a Parliamentary law empowering it to do so.

The Court upheld a judgment of the Chhattisgarh High Court which held that the Chhattisgarh Government had the competence to issue the Circulars as well as the Rules for the purpose of realising one-time permit fee while granting sanction for the erection of a mobile tower in the area under the jurisdiction of the Municipal Corporations/Municipalities/Gram Panchayats. e.

The bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan refused to accept the case of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, the appellant, that the subject of permit fee on mobile towers would fall within the scope of Entry 31 of List I of the Seventh schedule of the Indian Constitution which lies exclusively within the domain of the Central Legislature. Entry 31 deals with posts and telegraphs; telephones, wireless, broadcasting, and other like forms of communication.

At first, the Court highlighted judgments wherein it had already delved into the scope and ambit of the Entries in various Lists of Seventh Schedule. These included Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation v. GIL Infrastructure Ltd. (2017) 3 SCC 545.

In this matter, the Court had observed that in the context of a mobile tower located on land and building, incidence of a tax or charge or fee is not on the structure of the mobile tower as such, rather it is on the use of the land and building on which the mobile tower is erected. Therefore, the person who is using the land and building for the purpose of installation of the mobile tower so as to make use of the said structure for the purpose of telecommunication or telegraph services is liable to pay the tax or fee or charge.

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