Police on Sunday booked two British “plane spotters” who were detained for allegedly recording conversations between pilots and Air Traffic Control, a week after they were detained in the capital.
Stephen Hampston (46) and Steve Martin (55) were detained on February 15 night at Radisson Hotel after its staff reported to police that they were found indulging in “suspicious activities”.
“We have registered a case against them. They have been charged under Telegraph Act under Section 20 (with Section 4),” Joint Commissioner of Police (Southern Range) Ajay Kashyap told PTI.
If convicted, the duo will have to serve a prison term of up to three years, or with fine extending to up to Rs. 1,000, or with both. However, the offence which they committed comes under bailable and non-cognisable offences.
According to Section 20 of Telegraph Act, if any person establishes, maintains or works a telegraph within the country in contravention of the provisions of Section 4 which allows only licensed ones to establish, maintain or work a telegraph, be it on ships and aircraft, he shall be punished.
The Britons, who are employed with the UK Railways, were confined to Radisson Hotel near the international airport here from Monday night and were shifted to Lampur Detention Centre on February 17 after detention orders.
The Union Home Ministry had asked Delhi Police to find out the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act violated by the Britishers and if so directed them to book the duo.
The duo, who were in possession of sophisticated equipment, claimed that they were into plane-spotting and it was their hobby. Plane spotting is defined as observation and logging registration numbers of gliders, powered aircraft, balloons, airships, helicopters and microlights.
Hampston and Martin were detained along with their hi-tech equipment, used for recording conversation between the ATC and the pilots, and a high-powered binocular.
The two British nationals had called up the hotel from London before their India trip specifically demanding a room overlooking the international airport, sources said.
When confronted, the sources said, the Britons told interrogators that it was their hobby. Some of the blogs also put conversation between the pilots and the ATC online.
Besides examining the seized sophisticated equipment, investigators have checked the hard disks of their laptops and e-mails sent by them.