Telcos want seven sections of the Telegraph Act 1885 repealed or modified

Source: The post is based on an article Telcos want seven sections of the Telegraph Act 1885 repealed or modifiedpublished in The Business Standard on 21st September 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Industries and issues linked to industrial policies

News: Telecommunications companies (telcos) have petitioned the Union government to repeal and amend certain Sections of the Indian Telegraph Act (ITA) of 1885.

Through the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), telecom operators have identified seven Sections that require repeal/repurposing and strengthening.

Which sections do telecommunication companies want to be repealed or amended?

Section 27: If a telegraph officer transmits any message on which the charge prescribed by the Union government has not been paid, the section provides for imprisonment/fine. Telcos want it to be repealed.

Reason: The section has become irrelevant. Because human intervention is no longer required for transmission, due to technological advancements.

Section 28: Telegraph officer will be held guilty of any misconduct that leads to delay or disruption in the correct transmission of any message.

Reason: This section has become irrelevant because misconduct is governed in accordance with the present employment laws and policies.

Section 30: It provides for imprisonment/fine or both if a person fraudulently retains, removes, and holds the message without any reason.

Reasons: There is no human intervention so this section becomes irrelevant.

Section 29A: The COAI has asked to recreate this section to address the risk of tower frauds (where documents are forged). Current law imposes a fine of only Rs 50.

Recommendations: COAI has proposed to introduce a minimum penalty of Rs 1 lakh and/or imprisonment of six months for the first offence and Rs 5 lakh and/or imprisonment up to two years for each subsequent offence.

It has also recommended that the offence should be made cognisable and non-bailable.

Section 20: This section deals with offences relating to establishing, maintaining, or working unauthorised telegraph without proper licence or authorisation from the government. Telcos demand that this section should be amended.

Recommendations: They say that the punishment should be made cognisable and non-bailable.

Presently it is non-bailable and non-cognisable with a fine which may extend to only Rs 1,000 which make it easy for fraudsters to escape.

Section 23A: this section deals with offences related to intrusion into signal rooms, trespass on the telegraph office or causing obstruction in the services. Telcos want amendment to this section.

Recommendation: The offence should be made non-bailable and cognizable. They have asked that the penalty should be raised to Rs 1 crore per offence. The fine should be paid to the affected telco or telecom licensee.

Currently, such violations only impose a penalty of up to Rs 5,000 and are bailable.

Section 25A: This section covers damages made to all kinds of infrastructure such as optical fibre cable, etc., created by telcos for delivery of their services to customers. Telcos want amendment in this section.

Recommendations: They have recommended that penalty should be increased proportionately to the loss or damage suffered by the telecom service provider/licensee.

Currently, there is a maximum fine of Rs 1000 for such damage.

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