The CJI said that the possibility of fraud by ‘unverified” subscribers was real.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to apprise it within two weeks about the steps which can be taken to scrutinise the existing and future mobile users in the country.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justices N.V. Ramana and D.Y. Chandrachud expressed concern over the possibility of cellphones being misused to perpetuate frauds of all sorts, when it was pointed out that at present there is no verification regime as cell phone subscribers only have to submit their identity papers.
The CJI said that the possibility of fraud by ‘unverified” subscribers was real, and asked the government to come out with a mechanism to verify the identity of all cellphone subscribers in this country.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by Lok Niti Foundation expressing concern over use of cellphones for anti-national and other criminal activities in absence of any such mechanism. The NGO demanded that cellphones be linked to a person’s Aadhaar number to prevent such misuse of telecom services.
The PIL demanded that the government set up a 100 per cent verification regime for cellphone subscribers. The petition claimed that despite several earlier directions by the Trai, the telecom regulatory authority, there were about 5.25 crore unverified mobile phone subscribers in the country.
The PIL said the society had earlier submitted representations to both DOT and Trai to revise the mobile subscribers verification policy to incorporate the CAG’s suggestions to plug the loopholes in the system, but no effective action was taken. The NGO claimed that of the 105 crore subscribers by February 2016, a good five per cent were still unverified. It said while easy access to mobile phones in India has resulted in several benefits to the citizens, it has also led to increased threat of potential misuse of mobile phones for anti-national and criminal activities.
“The fact that one can easily get a new mobile phone connection without proper verification of the details of the subscriber, has added to the threat of this potential misuse.” The DOT’s 34 Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring Cells or TERM cells, which are supposed to verify these, were not effective, the PIL noted.