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HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times
Jalpaiguri , February 09, 2014
Jalpaiguri Police on Saturday confiscated 22 satellite phones from a group of European nationals in Chalsa in Jalpaiguri district of North Bengal. This is believed to be the largest-ever haul of illegal satellite phones in the country. “Based on a tip-off we raided a resort in Chalsa where around 50 European nationals were putting up and confiscated 22 satellite phones illegally sneaked into the country,” said Kunal Agarwal, superintendent of police (SP), Jalpaiguri.

Chalsa is a small town in Jalpaiguri district, around 60 km from the nearest airport, Bagdogra, in Darjeeling district.

The group is shooting a reality show to be telecast in France and other European countries. “Despite Indian embassy notices saying the use and carrying of satellite phones by foreign nationals without prior approval of Department of Telecommunication, Government of India, is strictly prohibited, the foreign nationals had not declared the phones while entering India,” said Agarwal. The police were interrogating the Europeans till late on Saturday.

Among the group, 33 were French nationals, 10 hailed from Belgium, two from Netherland and one each from Spain, Germany, England and Italy besides 33 Indians, the police said. Members of the group during interrogation claimed they were unaware of the fact that use of satellite phones is prohibited in the country.

Indian Embassy notice clearly says: “All foreigners travelling to India are hereby informed that it is illegal to use/carry Thuraya or other such satellite phones in India. Custom authorities in India may seize such phones and legal action may be taken against the passenger concerned.”

Jalpaiguri district in North Bengal is the hotbed of outlawed Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and police has not ruled out group's involvement with the ultras.

The foreigners entered India from Myanmar through the Assam border and then moved in Jalpaiguri.

The notice says: “Anyone using any telegraphic devices including Satphone without authorisation violates Section 4 of the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 and he/she can be penalised under Section 20 and 21 of the said Act. Tata Communications Limited, India, may be approached in case of necessity to use satellite telephone services in India.

“In case satellite phones are brought into India through baggage/hand baggage without licence from DoT, the equipment would be detained/confiscated by customs authorities as per existing procedures till the time the owner/holder of the satellite phone is able to produce a licence issued by DoT.”