Way back in 2006, the Congress government in Haryana acquired a state-of-the-art phone interception and monitoring system, along with a passive off-air (POA) phone interception contraption. The raison d’etre: hunting down criminals.
The purchases, particularly of the passive off-air interception device, though triggered concerns of misuse in political and bureaucratic circles. On the directions of the ministry of home affairs, the state CID was later forced to deposit the POA device.
ACQUIRING SNOOPING DEVICES
The state government followed the due procedure by inviting an expression of interest before importing the equipment through two central government undertak ings, Broadcast Engineering
Consultants India Ltd (BECIL) and Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd for 7.8 crore.
This was done after getting approval from the High-Powered Purchase Committee (HPCC) of the state government.
While the static apparatus is termed as Lawful Telephone Interception and Monitoring System (LIMS), the second one is a mobile device called the Passive Off-Air Interce ption Solution (POA).
The monitoring stations of LIMS have been set up at several places like the Haryana Police headquarters at Panchkula, range police headquarters and police commissionerates.
Police officials handling the systems said LIMS is linked up with the mobile service provider and no unauthorised interception can be done by persons handling the system.
They say that unless a written request is made to the service providers to provide call details, data pertaining to mobile towers or a parallel link, it cannot be provided.
The POA device was decided to be kept under the control of the then state intelligence chief to be used on case to case basis only.
The home department had also asked the state CID to spell out the safeguards for checking the misuse of interception systems.
It was suggested that persons operating the systems and authorising their operation should be specified. Also, a review committee under the chairmanship of chief secretary should be constituted.
SURRENDER APPARATUS, MHA TOLD STATES IN 2011
Post-Nira Radia tapes controversy, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) in 2011 had issued a directive to state governments across the country, asking them to surrender all passive off-air (POA) GSM interception devices in their custody.
The MHA said the off- air interception was completely illegal and the states should surrender any such equipment to dispel the probability of its misuse.
After showing initial reluctance, the Haryana CID, which was in possession of one such POA contraption surrendered the apparatus.
The police though believed that they have been robbed of vital equipment required to fight crime and tackle anti national elements.
The MHA also came up with a model list of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for lawful telephone interception and asked the states to frame SOPs as per their requirements. It also recommended SOPs for mobile service providers.