NATIONAL

Make provisions strict to curb international call rerouting: panel

NEW DELHI, DEC. 6. A high-level committee set up to examine the illegal international call rerouting controversy has recommended more stringent provisions, including registering cases against the operators for violating national security, to deal with the problem as the existing penalties are not a strong deterrent.

"Police action against illegal international long distance (ILD) operators under the existing provisions is not an effective deterrent," it noted in its report. It pointed out that the combination of the lax system and technological progress makes it easy for the offenders released on bail after a short stint in prison to restart their operations. The report, by a committee headed by a Telecom Regulatory Authority of India nominee and consisting of phone company representatives, was released by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP, Nilotpal Basu, at a news conference here today.

Large fines

The report wanted the grey traffic operators to be penalised by large fines and criminal proceedings under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, besides the Indian Penal Code and the Indian Telegraph Act. As national security was being compromised by sending calls whose origin is unknown, the committee wanted the Government to examine the possibility of booking the offenders under provisions dealing with national security.

"The offence should be made non-bailable since it may involve money laundering and depriving the country of foreign exchange. If it is established that an authorised operator is abetting the business of grey traffic, the licence should be terminated." The committee wanted the offenders blacklisted by the Government and barred from being awarded any licence in future.

Another report released by Mr. Basu noted that the Nepal-based subsidiary of a public sector telecom company has reported that whenever calls are made to Nepal by Indian private operators (mainly Bharti, Essar and Reliance), local call number is received on mobile phones. "In this case operators and terminating country suffer financial losses and subscribers of both countries receive poor quality of service."

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