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The Indian Telegraph Right of Way Rules (pdf), 2016, which provides exclusive rights to telecom operators (telcos) to temporarily acquire land for laying down fiber cables and mobile towers came into force on November 15th 2016. Under the new rules, telcos will need submit an application with details about land required for laying fiber or details of structures/building in case of erection of mobile towers.

A nodal officer setup under the state government shall look into the application and either grant access or reject it within 60 days. If the authority does not respond within 60 days, the application shall be deemed accepted. The state/central/local government have to mandatorily adopt electronic or online application process within a period of 1 year of Right of Way laws coming into force. The application is also subjected to some mandatory conditions to be followed by telcos and the authority:

Application Conditions

A telecom company applying for aRight of Way grant should mandatorily specify:

  • The area of land required for carrying out the works in case of land required for laying down fiber cables.
  • Land coordinates and details of the building/structure in case of setting up of mobile towers.
  • The mode of work for laying cables/erecting towers, overall time needed to complete the work, and how the work shall be carried out.
  • Time of day the work needs to be carried out, in case the licensee (telco) wants the work to be carried out during the day-time only.
  • Estimated expenses incurred by the central/state government, local authorities like municipal corporations.
  • Details of inconvenience that can be caused to the public due to the works, and specific measures proposed by telco to rectify those from time-to-time.
  • Measures taken by telco to ensure public safety while the work is taking place.

Supervision of work

In addition to this, the telecom company should mandatorily take responsibility to rebuild/restore public or private property that could be damaged due to the work. Once the Right of Way is granted, the telco should deposit a pre-determined amount as bank guarantee to the local/state authority within 30 days and pay administrative fees of not more than Rs 1000 per kilometer.

The local/state authority may carry out inspections during the work is being carried out and can:

  • Impose additional conditions to the telco if needed.
  • Impose fines, deduct money from the bank guarantee or even revokeRight of Way grant in case the telco fails to follow its obligations while carrying out the work.-Any such action will only be taken after providing an opportunity to the telco to explain the violation of conditions stated above.

Disputes between telco and authority

In case a telecom company disputes against the authority, it can approach a designated officer appointed by the Central government. The officer representing the central government will look into the complaint and provide a settlement within 60 days of the complaint being made. In case the officer fails to address the dispute, the complaint shall be directly taken up by the Central government authorities (i.e. DoT, TRAI).