RTI Judgement Series: How IIT gives stability certificates for mobile towers without inspection!
Moneylife Digital Team 04 January 2013

This case shows how the IIT provides stability certificates for erecting cell towers on old buildings without any inspection of the buildings! This is the 17th in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The Public Information Officer (PIO) or First Appellate Authority (FAA) cannot deny information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, especially about a certificate issued by a public authority. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner said, “Statutory bodies which permit these towers and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) would do well to take a look at these practices which may have the potential of endangering safety. Alternately people may discover that there is no need for such certification in which case it would be done away with.”


“The PIO was unable to give any of the exemption clauses of Section 8 (1). The Commission found that since the certificate was issued by the public authority and none of the exemption clauses apply to it,” the Central Information Commission (CIC) said in its order dated 31 December 2009.


Gurgaon resident Sham Lal, on 25 November 2008, sought information from the PIO of IIT Delhi regarding issuing of the certificate required to erect a mobile tower on the roof-top of a residential building after 1 January 2007. He wanted to know the names, address of building/building owners, date of issuing of the certificate with the certificate number, date of inspection, number of persons required to inspect for testing the structural stability, TA (travelling allowance) paid for inspection and details of vehicle used for the said purpose.


The PIO declined to provide the information citing third party clause. Sham Lal then approached the FAA, who upheld the PIO’s decision. The FAA in his order on 16 February 2009 said, “Having gone through the details, I would like to comment as following:

1) The reply given by the PIO is exclusive and complete. The relief sought for is your interpretation. In this regard, may please note that the certificate is given to the client only citing specific reference of the building.

2) It may be noted that the assignment has been undertaken as consultancy. As per agreed terms and conditions of the consultancy assignment, consultancy report and related documentation is confidential matter and cannot be disclosed to third party.

3) The drawings submitted by our client were returned to the client after the assignment was completed. We do not maintain record of such documents, hence we are unable to provide you a copy of the drawings.” 


Not satisfied with the replies, Sham Lal then filed the second appeal before the Commission. During the hearing, he stated that the house for which he is seeking information is in the name of Vinod Kumar, a third party. The PIO said he asked the third party under Section 11 of the RTI Act, and since Vinod Kumar refused to share the information, he did not provide it. The PIO also stated the copies of the plans of the building and other documents supplied by the third party are not retained by them, hence they could not supply these since they do not have the records.


Rejecting the PIO's contention, the Commission said since the certificate was issued by the public authority and none of the exemption clauses apply to it, the PIO should provide certified copy of the stability certificate to Sham Lal on or before 30 May 2009.


However, on 8 June 2009, Sham Lal sent a letter to the Commission alleging that the PIO had given incomplete information despite orders from the CIC. “The PIO had not provided the information within the stipulated time limit and the inordinate delay amounts to wilful disobedience of the Commission’s order and also raises a reasonable doubt that denial of the information might have been malafide,” Mr Gandhi noted.


He then directed the PIO to provide complete information before 30 June 2009 and also be present before the Commission along with the written submission to show cause as to why penalty should not be imposed on him under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act.


During the show-cause hearing on 23 July 2009, the PIO stated that the faculty members in the IIT issue a stability certificate based on the drawings provided by the client in which the address is mentioned. The PIO also said that no records are maintained by the IIT of the drawings.


The Commission took a look at the stability certificate provided by IIT which states, “This building is safe and capable of resisting the forces and moments which may be increased or altered by reason of the additional structures for a 15 meter three-legged tower with GSM and MW antenna. Pre-fabricated shelter and 25 KVADG set installed on the roof top of the building submitted by M/s VAS Design and Infrastructure Consultants Pvt Ltd. This does not certify the safety of building in the case of a natural calamity.”


Mr Gandhi noted that “The wording of this certificate appears to indicate that it is certifying the stability as existing whereas the PIO described that it is a certificate based on a drawing with an address which is not verified at all. Given the fact that the IIT does not maintain any copy of the drawing with itself this process appears to have great potential for misuse.”


The PIO has provided the information but this exercise appears to have revealed some fundamental flaws, he said. The Commission then directed the Director of IIT Delhi to take a look at these practices and correct them if required.






Decision No.  CIC/SG/A/2009/000589/3293Adjunct


Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2009/000589


Appellant                                            : Sham Lal



Respondent                                       : Vivek Raman

                                                            Public Information Officer

                                                            Indian Institute of Technology Delhi,

                                                            Hauz Khas,

                                                            New Delhi-110016.

Neela Govindaraj
1 decade ago
While on the topic of cell phone towers, I would like to know the norms of DoT regarding location of these towers in residential areas and whom to contact to know the radiation levels in the vicinity of these towers. Who should be contacted?
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