The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked the Department of Telecom (DoT) to issue a fresh warning on reporting and return of off-the-air snooping devices as there is little compliance more than a year after the last warning. In fact,some of the equipment are reported missing.
The MHAs Internal Security wing wrote to the Telecom Secretary on May 30 requesting that DoT once again issue a similar public notice with respect to off-the-air GSM monitoring equipment likely to be held in private hands and being put to illegal use.
The trigger for the second warning is a Haryana police report that two firms Ericsson India and ZTE Telecom located in IT city Gurgaon did not know the whereabouts of their tapping devices. The equipment are not lying/located in their office, said the Haryana Police in its September 2011 report to the Intelligence Bureau. The Haryana CID report was finally referred to the MHA last month by the DoT.
The report also said that while two such devices were imported by Motorola India they were no longer in use as some of the machine parts required replacement. It also said that Nokia India had transferred its equipment to Renesas Mobile Private Ltd in Bangalore.
As reported by The Indian Express,DoT first issued the notice in December 2010 warning all equipment importers including law enforcement authorities,telecom firms,corporate houses and private detective outfits to report these passive interception devices within 60 days or face prosecution and imprisonment.
When the DoTs February deadline lapsed,the MHA directed all states in May 2011 to trace and hand over all surveillance equipment with LEAs or private firms to the Intelligence Bureau. But there has been little progress barring a dozen equipment being reported by the state outfits.
According to the Department of Revenue Intelligence,there are over 1,100 GSM and CDMA tapping devices that were imported since 2008. The MHA handed over the importers data to the DoT in October 2010 to account for the location,use and capabilities of the machines.
MHA officials refused to divulge details about the number of devices surrendered so far.
Passive interception machines are now in the restricted list from the Open General Licence category and the Indian Telegraph Act allows the government to seize the equipment.