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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Mumbai: Free hoax calls drain out state exchequer

Govt plans to urge Centre to make hoax calls non-bailable offence.

Written by Rashmi Rajput | Mumbai | Published: April 6, 2016 1:21:09 am

“Mi Radheshyam boltoi. Dadar station var bomb thevla aahea”, (I am Radhehsya calling, there is a bomb planted at the Dadar station) – This call made by two teenagers from Panvel earlier last week had sent an entire state machinery on an overdrive. Thirty minutes later, after all the necessary security checks were completed, the station was declared secured and the call was concluded to be a hoax. Subsequent investigations by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) revealed that the two teens made the call as calling 100 number is free. While dialling 100 might be free, the checks carried out by multiple agencies had only made the state exchequer dearer by a couple of thousands of rupees.

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n Hours after terror struck Belgium capital Brussels on March 22, a call was received at the Jet Airways front desk in Chandigarh alerting of a bomb scare on five Jet Airway flights, four of which were already in air. While four landed in Delhi, one landed in Nagpur. Upon landing, the passengers were deplaned and checks were carried out. An investigation then revealed that it was a prank call made by a Delhi youth.

On an average, the Maharashtra ATS receives at least two calls a day of a possible bomb scare or a hijack in Mumbai or other cities or districts of the state, said a source.

Tired of the incessant hoax calls, the state counter-terrorism agency now plans to write to the state government requesting it to raise the matter with the Central government to amend the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to make hoax call a non-bailable offence, it is learnt.

According to the current provisions of law, a hoax caller cannot be prosecuted as the offence is not cognisable in nature.

“A hoax call not only sends the agencies in a tizzy forcing for multiple checks by different agencies but also causes a substantial loss to the state exchequer. We therefore plan to write to the state government to take up this matter,” a senior official said.

Currently, a miscreant making a hoax call can be booked under section 505(2) (Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement or report containing rumour or alarming news) and 505(3) (Offence under sub-section (2) committed in place of worship, etc) – both are non-congnisbale offences and bailable in nature.

“Every time, a call is received, we have to send our Bomb Detection & Disposal Squad (BDDS) units. Also, our sniffer dogs are pressed in. Other than the ATS, the local police also engage their Quick Response Teams (QRTs) to carry out the drills,” explained a senior official.

“In case of an airport, since the stakeholders are many, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) is also pressed into the job. They even evacuate the aircraft and carry out the anti-hijacking drill which is an elaborate exercise that is time-consuming. Meanwhile, the aircraft whose passengers are deplaned have to make arrangements for an alternative craft, adding to their expenses,” added the official.

Sources added that the ultimate sufferer in this was the state exchequer as the government resources were put into service, to verify the claims.

“Since the information is sensitive, one has to act swiftly and press the resources immediately. But at the end of the day, the state resources are wasted in checking the credentials of the information which turns out to be fake,” said another official.

While the security agencies have never profiled hoax callers or maintained a separate database on the same, sources said they were mostly youth in the age bracket of 16 to 40 years.

“Most of the callers are either youth who are disgruntled about something in life and derive some ‘criminal pleasure’ by making the police work or are people who are running late and make a hoax call to buy more time so that they don’t miss their flight or train,” added the official.

“Around a month ago, Sanjib Mishra, a youth from Pune, made hoax calls that bombs were planted in flights coming from Odisha just because he was frisked by the police during nakabandi,” the official said citing a case.

In a few cases, the police make an effort to track down the miscreants and arrest them.

But in many cases, after the sleuths are satisfied that the call was a false alarm, they don’t bother to trail the accused.

“It is in the absence of a penal law that the people take this lightly and make hoax calls. The reason to write to the state government is to ensure that if the law becomes punitive in nature, it will act as a deterrent,” added the official.

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