Government on Wednesday said telecom operators may face heavy penalties or suspension of licences if they fail to stop unauthorised interception of communications and maintain 'extreme secrecy' of citizens' messages.
Interception and monitoring of communication messages is governed by the provisions of Indian Telegraph Act which empowers Central and state governments to carry out interception under stipulated conditions, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
The Minister said rule under Indian Telegraph Rules provides that service providers shall put in place adequate internal checks to ensure that unauthorised interception of messages does not take place. He said extreme secrecy is maintained and utmost care and precaution is taken in matter of interception as it affects privacy of citizens.
"The service providers shall be responsible for actions of their employees also in case of established violation of licence conditions pertaining to maintenance of secrecy and confidentiality of information and unauthorised interception of communication."
"...action shall be taken against the service providers as per provisions of the said Act and this shall include not only fine but also suspension or revocation of their licences," the Minister said.
He said the Department of Telecom has mandated all operators as part of licence conditions that they should take all necessary steps to safeguard privacy and confidentiality of any information about a third party and its business to whom it provides services and from whom it has acquired such information.
"No person acting on behalf of the licensee or the licensee divulges or uses any such information except as may be necessary in the course of providing such service to the third party and no person seeks such information other than is necessary for the purpose of providing service to the third party," Prasad said.