The Delhi high court on Monday issued notices to the department of telecommunication (DoT) and the finance ministry, besides Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, seeking their response on a plea alleging that the messaging portals were illegally providing voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services, which were only permitted under a telecom licence.
The petition by internet service provider (ISP) World Phone Internet Services Pvt. Ltd (WPISPL) alleged that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp were providing internet telephony services without a licence.
The petitioner has contended that licensed telecom service providers (TSPs) and ISPs providing internet telephony were subject to regulations and security measures which were to be strictly followed. It also alleged that there was disparity between domestic TSPs/ITSPs and unlicensed service providers providing similar services.
WPISPL added that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are not regulated and operate outside the purview of lawful interception norms in India and pose a challenge to the security agencies in times of necessary interception, as their servers are housed outside India.
The company alleged that while Indian TSPs/ITSPs/ISPs are subject to various licencing requirements, compliance, regulations and licence fees, the unlicensed services these two portals were providing flouted the law and exploited the market.
It also alleged that the unregulated functioning of the two platforms was “a threat to national security” and also causes a loss to the exchequer.
The petitioner sought a direction from the court so that the central government takes relevant steps to prevent the platforms from offering such services until they comply with the requirements under the unified licence granted under section 4 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and those issued from time to time by the government.
It has sought directions from the government to make the licence regulations applicable to Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp, and ensure that they comply with it.―Livemint