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Key Takeaways

  • DoT announced rollout of 5G by end of 2021.
  • Juhi Chawla was accused to have filed the plea as a mere publicity stunt and disregarded the legalities of the plea.
  • The petitioners said that 5G rollout will have devastating consequences health and environment wise.
  • The respondents disregarded the contemplations of the petitioners calling them baseless and being limelight tactics.

Introduction

In the light of the announcement of 5G rollout in India by the end of 2021, actress Juhi Chawla along with two activists filed a plea to reconsider the decision on the grounds of health and environmental hazards which are grave in nature. They were however told that the plaintiffs must first demonstrate that the policy is a public nuisance, and that they cannot just make allegations and expect redress.

5G Rollout in India

  • In a detailed report recently provided to a parliamentary committee, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), which is part of the Communications Ministry, stated that "the particular time frame" for the rollout of 5G technology in India is "by the end of 2021."

Court’s Opinion

  • Chawla was also questioned by the court for launching the lawsuit without first informing the government of her worries about the technology.
  • The plaintiffs, Chawla and two others, were compelled to first contact the government for their rights, and if refused, they should come to the court, according to Justice J R Midha.
  • The court, which deferred ruling on the case after hearing arguments from several parties, also questioned why as many as 33 parties were added to the plaint, claiming that this was against the law.
  • “It is not the plaintiff's sweet will to add as many parties and causes of action as possible. Please refer to the parties' memo. Tell me how you became involved with them. The judge stated, "Every party cannot be arrayed in the complaint", asked the lordship.
  • The court inquired about the plaintiffs' awareness of the facts and threatened to prosecute them for submitting fraudulent claims.

Plea and the petitioners’ arguments

  • Before the country's formal roll-out, the actor requested a scientific investigation on any negative consequences of radio frequency radiation emitted by cellular telecoms utilising 5G technology on "health, life, organ or limb of adult or child, or to flora and fauna."
  • The petition asked the government, specifically the Science and Engineering Research Board, to certify that the adoption of 5G technology for cellular communications posed no risk or hazard.
  • It also recommended the government to enlist the help of the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Central Pollution Control Board, and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to conduct their own investigations on the subject.
  • The petition used the example of Brussels (Belgium), which it said was the first large city in the world to really prohibit any further 5G rollout in April 2019 because of known health risks.
  • The plaintiffs' lawyer, Deepak Khosla, stated that 5G technology experiments involving humans have been completed, and that these are not "pigs and rats."
  • “This suit will disclose a complete sell-out by regulatory authorities that have been tasked with protecting the public's health and safety, but whose acts demonstrate a total derogation of their own statutory responsibility in order to benefit corporate interests,” according to the plea. “Because ‘prevention' is widely acknowledged to be vastly superior to ‘cure,' immediate steps must be done to preserve people and the environment, in accordance with ethical imperatives as well as formal international accords, before such harm is really unleashed,” the report stated.

Counter arguments

  • The Department of Telecommunications' Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and counsel Amit Mahajan stated the 5G policy does not fall under the category of public nuisance and is clearly not forbidden by law. According to Mehta, the plaintiffs must explain how the technology is improper, and the lawsuit is ill-conceived. If the plaintiffs intended to avoid paying court fees, Mahajan said they might have filed a PIL. “What is the hidden agenda?” he asked, adding that the plaintiffs had previously filed a plea in the Bombay High Court on similar matters, which was not pending in the Supreme Court, which was the rationale for not filing a PIL and instead starting a private suit.
  • The launch of 5G technology, according to senior attorney Kapil Sibal, who represents private telecom companies, is a government policy, and as such, it cannot be considered an unlawful conduct.On the subject of public annoyance, he stated that the plaintiffs must first demonstrate that the policy is a public nuisance, and that they cannot just make allegations and expect redress.“They have to prove that the policy is incorrect,” he remarked.

Conclusion

The court in a nutshell, did not seem satisfied by the contentions of the plaintiffs and rather were bothered by the unsubstantiated nature of the plea. They were unsatisfied by the conduct of the hearing due to the intervention of the fans of the actress and neither by the nature of the plea.


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