DoT proposes hefty fine for illegal phone tapping

DoT proposes hefty fine for illegal phone tapping

In a note to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Department of Telecom (DoT) has proposed the imposition of a penalty between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 crore for breaches under different sections of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. The department has also favoured a three-year jail term for the guilty.

The section 26 of the Act prohibits telegraph officers or other officials from unlawfully intercepting or disclosing messages or divulging the purport of signals. Any breach of this section attracts imprisonment that may extend up to three years, along with a fine of Rs 500.

Now the DOT wants to bring an amendment for the Act by increasing the penalty amount. The proposed amendment to the Indian Telegraph Act would likely be tabled in the Budget session of Parliament, sources in the DoT told Deccan Herald.

Besides, the DOT also proposed the amendments to the Indian Telegraph Rules for electronic provision and collection of Call Data Records (CDRs) to enable the security agencies to snoop on all communication networks used by public.

Though the Union Home Ministry wanted to intercept telephone conversations of public, there is also concern over leakage of these tapped conversations in the wake of corporate lobbyists Nira Radia tapes being leaked to the media.

In fact, noted industrialist Ratan Tata criticised the government’s “lackadaisical attitude” to the leakage of his tapped telephonic conversations with corporate lobbyist Radia in the Supreme Court, alleging it remained least bothered about the violation of an individual’s privacy in the entire episode.

The government is also equally worried about the growing menace of illegal phone tapping in the country mainly by private detective agencies and business rivals.
The DoT had earlier asked the agencies involved in telephone call monitoring, particularly private detective agencies, to register with it by disclosing the equipment they use for call interceptions.

In a public notice, the telecom department had said if the companies failed to register themselves, they would attract severe punishment of up to three years in prison and a fine.

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