To regulate temporary suspension of telecom services during public emergencies, the Centre has made an order from at least a joint secretary-level official mandatory for temporarily stopping of services.
An order from an officer, not below the rank of a joint secretary, who has been duly authorised by the Union home secretary or the state home secretary will need to be obtained in case of “unavoidable circumstances, where obtaining of prior direction is not feasible,” the notification, issued earlier this month, said. Otherwise, such directions would need to be made by the union home secretary, or a state secretary in-charge of home department. These bans, which the authorities issue to control tense situations, would also attract review, as per the new rules. “Any order issued by the competent authority… shall contain reasons for such direction and a copy of such order shall be forwarded to the concerned Review Committee latest by next working day,” the notification said.
For Centre-issued orders, the review panel would comprise cabinet secretary as the chairman, with legal affairs secretary and telecom secretary as its members. If a state orders the suspension, a panel chaired by the state’s chief secretary with Secretary Law or Legal Remembrancer In-Charge, Legal Affairs, and a secretary to the state, other than the home secretary as its members. “The Review Committee shall meet within five working days of issue of directions… and record its findings whether the directions issued … are in accordance with the provisions of … (the Indian Telegraph Act),” the notification said.
The Indian Telegraph Act states that the Centre or a state may direct that “any message or class of messages to or from any person or class of persons, or relating to any particular subject, brought for transmission by or transmitted or received by any telegraph, shall not be transmitted, or shall be intercepted or detained, or shall be disclosed to the Government …” if expedient so to do in the interests of “sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of State, friendly relations with foreign States” or to prevent “incitement to the commission of an offence”.