The Kerala Police told the High Court Monday that India needed to make Telegram, a cloud-based messaging platform, abide by regional laws to operate in the country, and to put in place a system where it can respond to queries on criminal matters.
The police submitted in the HC that it was ‘nearly impossible’ to trace user details from Telegram because of the kind of anonymity and security the application provides to its users.
The police’s response came in the backdrop of a petition by 23-year-old Athena Solomon K, a law student in Bengaluru and a native of Kozhikode district, seeking to block user access to the application and to delete all pornography channels, groups and bots on the platform.
The police said that the messaging platform, that provides end-to-end encryption, was being widely used by criminals for propagating pornographic material, child pornographic contents, financial fraud activities, selling credit/debit card details and movie piracy.
It also said it was difficult for law enforcement agencies to collect account details from service providers, because Telegram can be used by displaying a username alone, and the registered mobile number can be kept hidden, unlike other applications like WhatsApp.
“A Telegram user can hide their registered mobile number even from the admins of groups or channels and still send texts, images, videos or files anonymously,” the police stated.
It added that Telegram servers are hosted outside India and that the owners of the platform have not provided any law enforcement support or given any subscriber details to law enforcement agencies.
In addition, a counter-affidavit filed by VK Trivedi on behalf of the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology stated that since the number of mobile applications are growing day by day, it is practically not feasible to monitor every application used by millions of users.
“It is to be noted that issues arising thereon can be handled only on a case to case basis,” the petition said.
As of September 2019, Telegram had 2.9 million monthly active users in India and reported 91.2 lakh downloads that month. It was launched in 2013 and founded by Russia’s Nikolai Durov and Pavel Durov.