On Tuesday morning, Steve Ayers (55) and Stephen Hampston (46) found themselves quite perplexed as they stood on one side of a crowded courtroom.
The two Britishers were granted bail on Tuesday for an offence they allegedly committed under the Indian Telegraph Act—that of recording registration details of aircraft from the balcony of their Radisson Hotel room ten days ago.
“When this law was enacted in 1885, it was mandatory to obtain a licence to keep radios at home. It is not like that now. These two (Britons) were only pursuing their hobby. There was no transmission from the device they were using to spot the planes,” Rajiv Awasthi, the counsel for the two argued before a city court on Tuesday.
Police informed the court that they have recovered a laptop, S-Box and an antenna from the two men.
The S-Box, described as “a secondary surveillance radar receiver, with a built-in airband radio”, is manufactured by a British aviation company Kinetic Avionics.
In a three-page report filed before the court, police had said there was no data card in their laptop and that the recordings had not been transmitted anywhere. It was only capable of intercepting communication but could not communicate with pilots or Air Traffic Control.
The court was informed that Ayers’ mother was not keeping well and that they deserved a speedy trial. They were produced at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) later and complying with the court orders they were released on bail.
“Once they are released from court, the two will be free to go anywhere. We are providing them all assistance,” said a representative of the British High Commission. The duo will be required to reappear in court on March 3.
“We certainly did not take any permission for the hobby of plane spotting. We have been to other countries as well for the same. We even visited the Air Force museum,” Ayers told HT.