Government’s Power Play: Telecom Act 2023 Allows Takeover of Networks, Blocking and Controlling Messages and Calls

The Telecommunications Act 2023 brings some substantial changes to India’s telecom laws, with a much greater emphasis on national security, consumer protection, and the modernisation of telecommunications infrastructure
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The Telecommunications Act 2023, which introduces significant changes to India’s telecom laws, will take effect from today, June 26. This new legislation will replace the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 and the Indian Wireless Telegraph Act of 1933, reflecting the substantial technological advancements in the telecommunications sector.

The Telecommunications Act 2023 brings some substantial changes to India’s telecom laws, with a much greater emphasis on national security, consumer protection, and the modernisation of telecommunications infrastructure.

Government Control for National Security:
One of the critical provisions allows the government to take control and manage any telecommunication services or networks if national security, friendly relations with foreign states, or war conditions necessitate it. This is a significant measure aimed at ensuring the nation’s safety and stability.

SIM Card Regulations:
The Act also introduces new rules regarding the number of SIM cards an individual can possess. People can have up to nine SIM cards registered in their name. However, residents of Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast are limited to six SIM cards. Violations of these limits will result in hefty fines: Rs 50,000 for the first breach and Rs 2 lakh for subsequent breaches. Additionally, obtaining a SIM card using someone else’s identification documents can lead to severe penalties, including up to three years of imprisonment, a fine of up to Rs 50 lakh, or both.

Regulation of Commercial Messages:
The Act addresses the issue of unsolicited commercial messages. Operators sending commercial messages without user consent could face fines up to Rs 2 lakh and might even be banned from providing services. This provision aims to protect consumers from unwanted spam messages.

Infrastructure on Private Property:
The government now has the authority to permit telecom companies to install mobile towers or lay telecom cables on private property, even without the landowner’s consent. This provision ensures the expansion and maintenance of telecom infrastructure, deemed necessary by the authorities.

Interception and Surveillance:
In emergencies or when national security is at risk, the government can intercept telecom services to block and control message and call transmissions. However, there are exceptions for journalists. Messages sent by accredited journalists for news purposes are exempt from surveillance. Nevertheless, if their reports are considered a potential threat to national security, their calls and messages may be monitored and blocked.

As these provisions come into effect on June 26, they will significantly impact the regulatory landscape of the telecom sector in India, ensuring it keeps pace with technological advancements and addressing contemporary challenges.

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