The Madras High Court bench here on Thursday ordered notice to the Ministry of Telecommunication and Bharat Sanchar Nigam limited (BSNL) on two public interest litigation petitions that sought restoration and continuance of the telegram service in India.
The petitioners contended that the BSNL failed to consider the rural masses before scrapping the telegram service. In his petition, I.Robert Chandrakumar, a Madurai-based advocate, claimed that 70 per cent of India’s population lived in the rural areas where communication through mobile phones and email had not reached.
“Telegram is also an integral mode of communication for the lawyers, litigants, armed force and police. Urgent interim orders in habeas corpus, bail and civil cases are normally communicated by the court through telegram. The armed police personnel extend their leave through telegram,” he contended.
In another petition, M.Sekaran, president of the Federation of Consumer and Service Organisations in Tiruchi, alleged that the BSNL gave a ‘stepmotherly treatment’ to the telegram service before scrapping it.
“Considering the advancement in technology, the BSNL should have reduced the telegram charges to attract the people, but in contrary it had increased the telegram charges from Rs.3.50 to Rs.27.50,” he said.
“The government continues to run services in loss such as train, bus and posts for the benefit of the public, but stopped the telegram,” he contended.
Citing the annual report of 2012-13 published by the Department of Telecommunication, Mr.Sekaran said rural tele-density was only 39.90 per cent in 2012-13.
“Around 60.10 per cent of the people in rural India did not have direct communication facility and they rely on public communication facility like telegraph for communication,” he claimed.
The BSNL, instead of scrapping the service, should have returned the service to the Postal Department, which in a dedicated manner handled the service from 1850 to 1990, he contended.
The petitioners pleaded the court to direct the BSNL to restore the telegram service and hand it over to the Postal Department.
A division bench comprising Justices N.Paul Vasanthakumar and P.Devadass heard the case on Thursday and ordered the notices. The case was posted Friday for further hearing.