Mumbai: A petition in the Bombay High Court has alleged that Gram Panchayats in rural Maharashtra were collecting exorbitant fees in the name of 'Development Charges' for granting 'NOC' to companies erecting mobile towers in villages under their jurisdiction.

This has not only seriously affected their business but also deprived people in the rural areas of mobile network services, the petition, filed by Vodafone Infratel, Bharati Infratel and Indus Tower, contended.

The petition further alleged that some members of Gram Panchayats go in for negotiations with the companies and demand cash for granting the no objection certificate. It becomes difficult for the companies to pay cash without getting receipts as this money cannot be accounted for.

Development Charges collected by Gram Panchayats for allowing mobile tower in villages range from Rs 30,000 to Rs one lakh or more, the petition submitted.

It contended that the Rural Development Ministry of the state government had recently written a letter to the CEOs of all Zilla Parishads in Maharashtra asking them to take action against Gram Panchayats who were collecting money for granting NOC to mobile towers in villages.

The letter had mentioned that the practice of collecting money by Gram Panchayats for issuing NOC to mobile towers was not correct and should not be followed.

The petition demanded immediate implementation of this letter issued by the Rural Development Ministry.

It was further alleged that some Gram Panchayats also demand Property Tax for erecting mobile towers and this was six times more than the prescribed limit. The petition demanded that property tax may be charged as per normal rates.

The petition is expected to be heard on October 15 by a bench headed by Justice A M Khanvilkar.

(Agencies)

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