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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

HC seeks Centre, Facebook response on voice calls

While WhatsApp said that they do not have a comment to share at this point, Facebook could not be reached for a despite repeated calls and texts.

delhi Updated: Oct 22, 2019 08:09 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
The court’s order comes while hearing the plea by World Phone Internet Services Pvt Ltd.
The court’s order comes while hearing the plea by World Phone Internet Services Pvt Ltd.(HT image)
         

The Delhi High Court on Monday sought the response of Centre, Facebook messenger and WhatsApp on the plea by an internet service provider (ISP) contending that the two social media platforms were providing voice calling facilities without all any license fee.

Justice Navin Chawla issued notice to the Department of Telecommunications, Finance Ministry, Facebook and Whatsapp seeking to know as to why the two messaging platforms should not be subject to license fee and security considerations like other ISPs internet service providers for providing the voice over internet services permitted under a telecom license.

The court’s order comes while hearing the plea by World Phone Internet Services Pvt Ltd; an ISP filed through advocate Bipul Kedia which has alleged that the unregulated functioning of the two platforms was “a threat to national security” and also causes a loss to the exchequer.

“The illegal functioning of Facebook messenger and WhatsApp should not be permitted. Facebook and WhatsApp are providing internet telephony without a license,” the petition read.

While WhatsApp said that they do not have a comment to share at this point, Facebook could not be reached for a despite repeated calls and texts.

According to advocate Sanjoy Ghose, counsel for the petitioner, the licensed telecom service providers (TSPs) and ISPs providing internet telephony are subject to many licensing regulations and security measures which are to be strictly followed.

He said that there is a penalty of Rs 50 crore per breach if there is any security lapse that occurs due to any “inadvertent inadequacy” in precautions taken by it or due to deliberate fault on the part of the licensee. Apart from that criminal proceedings may also be initiated, the plea said.

“…….facebook messenger and WhatsApp, which provide voice services without holding a telecom license in India, circumvent the Indian telecom licensing provisions and provide services that are otherwise permitted only under a telecom license,” the petition detailed.

It also stated that the ISPs have to pay a license fee which is eight % of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) earned from internet telephony and from second year of effective date of respective authorisation, it would be a minimum of 10 per cent of the entry fee of the respective authorised service and service area.

“However, Facebook messenger and Whatsapp are not subject to any of the license regulations, do not have to pay any tariffs nor penalties for violation and as a result, licensed ISPs and TSPs, like the petitioner, have to compete with them and suffer huge losses, it added.

It has sought directions to the government to make the license regulations applicable on the two platforms as well as ensure they comply with it.