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Govt issues norms on phone tapping

The move comes in the wake of the phone-tapping controversy involving Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2006 05:04 IST

To put a check on phone tapping and to maintain privacy in communication, the Government on Wednesday issued guidelines to telecom operators that stipulate stringent norms on employees responsible for monitoring and interception of calls.

The Government has also designated specific officers of security agencies to authorise phone tapping.

However, the guidelines do not mention any explicit penalty for violation or legal action against the operators for violation of privacy of communications. Sources in the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) said that penal action would be applicable for violation as per the licence conditions.

To account for all intimations sent by the security and law enforcement agencies to the service providers, the DoT has asked operators to make 24x7 arrangements to monitor the interception of calls.

It has also directed that operators would have to issue acknowledgement letters in a sealed cover within two hours for every intimation to the concerned security and law enforcement agency on receipt of such intimations for interception. This system will have to be followed even in case of emergency cases where prior approval for interception has not been obtained.

Service providers have been directed to appoint senior officers, preferably in the rank of general manager/deputy general manager, at least in the big cities, as nodal persons to interact with security agencies.

The guidelines with instructions for ensuring privacy of communication state, “Service providers will put in place adequate and effective internal checks within their organisation to ensure that unauthorised interception of communication does not take place and extreme secrecy and confidentiality of intimation of interception authorisation is maintained.”

Wherever instructions are issued in emergency cases to carry out interception in the remote areas or for the operational reasons, confirmation from the competent authority is to be provided within three days of their issue.

Such order will have to be issued with prior approval of the head or the next immediate senior officer of the agency not below the rank of inspector general of police. Further, officers in the rank of superintendent of police or equivalent instead of DIG or equivalent are authorised to authenticate order issued by the home secretary.

Nodal officers appointed by the operators will have to forward a list of interception authorisation received by them during the preceding fortnight to the nodal officers of the security and law enforcement agencies and seek their confirmation regarding their authenticity every 15 days.

It also stipulates a fortnightly meeting of nodal officers from both sides to crosscheck the requisitions received by the operators during the previous fortnight.

Operators will also have to provide call detail records (CDR) requisitioned as per the Criminal Procedure Code.

Telecom service providers will also have to offer interception facilities for a roaming subscriber to the state police of home network. The directive to operators states, “Interception facility to the state police for a non-roamer subscriber outside the territorial boundaries of the state shall be provided with the approval of union home secretary or with the approval of the home secretary of the concerned state.”

Guidelines also reiterate that the service providers will ensure proper and adequate verification of the subscribers of the mobile cell phones/subscriber identification module (SIM) cards so as to guard against their possible misuse for terrorist and anti-national activities.

First Published: Feb 09, 2006 05:04 IST