The Supreme Court asked the government on Monday to mandatorily verify all pre-paid mobile phone subscribers and scrutinise their identity to ensure that their SIM cards are not misused for criminal, terrorist and fraudulent activities.
A bench headed by chief justice of India JS Khehar said such an exercise could be undertaken in a phased manner. The court noted that a mechanism would be put in place within a year under which new mobile subscribers would be required to fill up Aadhaar-based e-KYC (Know Your Customer) forms to check their identity.
But the court told attorney general Mukul Rohatgi that the existing customers, too, should be verified. It suggested giving the unverified pre-paid mobile numbers six months time for submitting identity proof, failing which they should not be allowed any recharge facility.
"It is submitted that an effective system will be put in place and the process of scrutiny will be completed in one year. We are satisfied that the prayers made in the writ petition have been substantially dealt with," the bench said, hoping the process would be completed within a year.
The top court was hearing a PIL filed by Lokniti Foundation, which pointed out that almost five crore pre-paid subscribers were unverified. The petitioner had sought a direction to the Centre to put in place a proper mechanism to check the authenticity of information provided by mobile users. Verification was necessary in view of the fact that mobile phones are now used for banking.
Expressing serious concern over the possible misuse of such phones, the bench said subscribers could be given an opportunity to verify themselves at the time of recharge. It did not keep the petition pending and recorded Rohatgi’s assurance that the verification would be completed within a year.
Rohatgi admitted that more than 90% of mobile phone subscribers were pre-paid and got their phone recharged at kiosks spread across the country. He said it would be complicated, but the government would still put the system in place.
At an earlier hearing CJI Khehar had said it was important to remove fictitious subscribers. This was necessary to keep a check on fraudulent activities.
The petitioner highlighted the dangers posed by unverified SIM cards and said it was a grave risk to the national security.