The next time you lend your cellphone or pass on your SIM card to someone, be very careful. Reason: You could be held culpable if the person you loan the phone to is involved in criminal activity.
The Department of Telecommunications has asked mobile phone operators to ensure retail outlets put up a notice, saying the owner of the SIM card will be held responsible for any misuse of the card. The notice will advise customers to carry a photo ID and proof of residence while purchasing a SIM.
The contact number of the Vigilance Telecom Monitoring cell must also be provided. You can complain if the retailer gives a connection without checking necessary documents.
Sounds familiar? Well, these rules have been there from the beginning. Only they haven’t been strictly implemented. Growing reports of cellphone misuse, many of them involving militant groups, is a major concern.
Last year, Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef was charged in the foiled UK terror plots after his SIM card was found in the car used in the Glasgow airport attack. Haneef had given the card to his cousins Sabeel and Kafeel Ahmed. Both were arrested in connection with the terror plots. Later, charges against Haneef were dropped.
A vigilance official in New Delhi told the Hindustan Times that there is a “substantial market” for renting mobile cards, where agents do not seek ID proofs from users.
Last November, Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Shakeel Ahmad told the Rajya Sabha that leading firms, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular, were involved in renting out domestic SIM cards in bulk through agents.