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Indian Government May Intercept Your Phone Calls As India-Pakistan Conflict Escalates

It is possible that the Indian government is going to ask telecom operators to intercept calls between India and Pakistan.

The companies are preparing themselves for requests to monitor international long-distance traffic on select routes after the Indian military put the northwestern states near the India-Pakistan border on high-alert.

If any requests had been made, the information would be strictly confidential and only the designated nodal officer at each telecom company would know.

But, telecom operators have the equipment to monitor calls and the government has ordered internet shutdowns in the past.

Ram Narain, the former Deputy Director General in the telecom department told. “The government can technically order temporary Internet shutdowns in surcharged situations to pre-empt rumour mongering and the wrong sort of messages spreading in sensitive zones in national security interest, and can even direct telcos to intercept/tap specific calls, based on intelligence inputs.”

Can telecom operators or the government legally monitor your calls?

The surveillance of any person or group — or even telecom network themselves — can be enabled by enacting the Telegraph Act, 1885.

The definition of “telegraph” in the Telegraph Act brings virtually all communication devices under its umbrella — including smartphones and landlines.

But, what actually gives the government the power to monitor calls is in Section 5(2) of the Act, which states that the government can switch to surveillance “on the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of public safety.”

Essentially, the government can intercept calls, if necessary, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign States, and public order.

Additionally, under Section 5(2), the government can ask telecom operators for surveillance equipment — but there is no obligation for the government to clearly outline the reasons.

The definition of ‘surveillance equipment’ is also broad so the government has the power to install any surveillance equipment that matches up to the current state of technology and their requirements.

The India Surveillance Report asserts that telecom operators are required to make arrangements for the government to monitor several calls simultaneously. Government agencies have specified that the number of calls should be 480. They should all have ‘monitoring equipment’, and at least 30 calls should have tracing capabilities in each of the 10 designated security agencies.

The procedural law for tapping phones is under Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951. It also states that a lawful order may be issued only once all other reasonable means for acquiring the information have been ruled out. ―Business Insider

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