Held with satellite phone: Court rejects American national’s plea to be allowed to return home

The BCAS circular ordered all airports in the country to seize satellite phone and detain the person in possession of it. In the first two years after the the ban came into effect, six foreign nationals were detained at domestic and international airports in Mumbai.

Written by Srinath Rao | Mumbai | Published: October 6, 2017 3:00 am
mumbai airport, satellite phones, mumbai 26/11 attacks, mumbai terror attack, american national satellite phone, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

A local court on Thursday rejected the plea of an American national, who was held at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on Monday with a satellite phone, to be allowed to return home. He was granted bail on Tuesday. Edgar Banghrat (55), a businessman, was undergoing security check for a flight to Kathmandu, when the airport security personnel found a suspicious object while scanning his luggage, police said. A complaint given to the police by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) stated that upon manual inspection of Banghrat’s luggage, they found a satellite phone inside.

Satellite phones have been banned in the country after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, when Pakistani terrorists were found to have used Thuraya handsets to contact their handlers in Pakistan. Banghrat, who frequently travels to India to source raw materials for the automobile parts company, was taken to Sahar police station, where he was booked under the Indian Wireless (Telegraphy) Act. However, Banghrat was not arrested and asked to remain present at Andheri magistrate court on Tuesday. The police said that Banghrat, who had arrived in Mumbai last week, was headed to Nepal to trek after finishing a series of business meetings.

“He planned to use the handset while going trekking. He was not aware of the ban on satellite phones in India,” said Lata Shirsath, Senior Inspector, Sahar police station. Banghrat’s lawyer, advocate Prabhakar Tripathi, said his client was granted bail after paying a cash bond of Rs 15,000 on Tuesday. “He made a mistake in bringing the satellite phone with him. He was not aware that the phones are banned in India,” said Tripathi. Banghrat had also filed an application soon after being granted bail, to be allowed to return to the USA. However, the court rejected his plea on Thursday. Banghrat would now have to face a trial. Tripathi said he would appeal against the rejection of his plea in a higher court.

BCAS order

In a 2012 circular, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) noted that instances of unauthorised use of Thuraya sets by foreign nationals “reportedly out of ignorance regarding the ban” had “serious security implications”. The BCAS circular ordered all airports in the country to seize satellite phone and detain the person in possession of it. In the first two years after the the ban came into effect, six foreign nationals were detained at domestic and international airports in Mumbai.

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