India-Pakistan Tension: Telcos Can Intercept Mobile Calls, Shut Down Internet; If Required

As of now, no telecom operator has received any such request

Calls can be monitored in India
Calls can be monitored in India

The current tension between India and Pakistan, and the subsequent military escalations can lead to mobile calls being intercepted and monitored.

We will discuss the legality of this case, and whether the user will be informed of this by the telecom companies?

Monitoring Long Distance Calls: A Possibility?

As per the Economic Times report, leading telecom operators in India are bracing for a possibility, wherein they can be asked to monitored calls, especially long distance calls from India to other countries.

If this happens, it would be a secret, and besides some entities, it won’t be known to any.

This has been confirmed by Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents telecom operators such as Vodafone-Idea, Airtel and Jio.

As per Rajan, if such a request from Indian Govt. comes, then it would be highly confidential, and only the designated nodal officer would be informed of this decision.

He said, “The nodal officer is bound by strict confidentiality requirements. So, unable to confirm if any requests have been received by operators,”

Call Monitoring and Surveillance Request Can Be Made

As per various sections of the Telegraph Act, 1885, Indian Govt. can order telecom companies to monitor the calls, and even ask for surveillance equipment to monitor the calls themselves.

Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act clearly states that the Govt. can switch to a surveillance mode “on the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of public safety.”

The clause also states that Govt. has no obligation to inform or update users about such monitoring of calls.

Besides, The India Surveillance Report states that Govt. can order telecom operators to provide surveillance equipment to monitor as much as 480 calls at the same time.

10 designated security agencies should be able to monitor 30 calls each, in case of such emergency, and telecom providers are bound to serve this order.

Which are those 10 designated security agencies, is not mentioned in the report.

Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951 also gives absolute power to Indian Govt. to tap and monitor any telephone in India, in case ‘all other reasonable means for acquiring the information have been ruled out.’

Telecom operators have not commented or reacted to this news. However, one of the senior executives from the Big 3 telecom operator said the “the company is fully committed to extend all possible support to the government and the armed forces”.

Ram Narain, former DDG (Security) in the telecom department has said that in case of military escalations, internet shutdowns can also be imposed in selected sensitive areas.

More details are awaited.

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