THE Mumbai Police Crime Branch has written to the Department of Telecommunication (DoT), seeking a solution to the use of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) calls by criminals, which have proved to be a hindrance in its investigations. The letter cites instances of criminals making VOIP calls and says law-enforcement agencies across the country will forever be caught on the backfoot unless the government enforces a law requiring internet service providers to track calls made via internet.
Crime Branch sources said the move comes after repeated instances of criminals using VOIP calls in recent years. Sources said the letter — sent to the office of the Secretary (DoT) on Monday — seeks legal provisions to make it mandatory for internet service providers to keep a log of all calls made through their services, along with details like the location from where the call was made, so that these details can be accessed by law-enforcement agencies if required. The letter adds that as the DoT is a Central government department, such a legal provision will benefit law-enforcement agencies across the country, the sources said.
“We first saw the use of VOIP calls during the 26/11 terror attacks of 2008 and, since then, the practice has become alarmingly common among criminals, especially underworld elements who operate from outside the country. As long as they have enforcers operating here, all they need to do is to relay instructions to them through VOIP calls and we will never be able to trace their location unless internet service providers record details of calls. At present, we cannot even fault the service providers as they are not bound by law to do so,” said a Crime Branch officer.
Last week, the Crime Branch had arrested eight accused who were allegedly working for wanted fugitive Suresh Pujari. “Pujari personally relayed instructions to several of the accused and all the calls were made via the internet. He also made a couple of calls to the target. In spite of so many calls made by him and the fact that we have the cellphones on which the calls were received, there is no way to track his location or the location from which he made the calls,” said the officer.
Another officer said over the last few years, several wanted criminals, including Rajendra Nikhalje alias Chhota Rajan and Shakeel Babumiyan Sheikh alias Chhota Shakeel, have also been using VOIP calls to either relay instructions to their men in the city or to call up targets.
When contacted, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Atulchandra Kulkarni said, “There are certain problems faced by law-enforcement agencies when it comes to internet telephony and we are approaching the agencies concerned for solutions.”