More reports on: Government policies

SC asks centre to verify identity of all mobile phone users

07 February 2017

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the centre to put in place an effective mechanism to correctly verify the identities of the billion plus mobile telephone users in the country, to weed out fake identities of mobile phone subscribers.

A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana took note of the statement of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the centre, that a mechanism will be put in place to scrutinise identity of mobile users and new subscribers will be required to fill up Aadhaar-based e-KYC forms to ensure correct identity.

''It is submitted that an effective system will be put in place and the process of scrutiny will be completed in one year… We are satisfied that the prayers made in the writ petition have been substantially dealt with,'' the bench said and hoped that the process would be completed in the near future and latest before completion of one year.

The bench also suggested that existing pre-paid mobile users, who are 90 per cent of the total mobile users, may be asked to give identity details at the time of re-charge as done while giving fresh SIM cards to users. Rohatgi said that it would be difficult as even small kiosks across the country re-charge pre-paid mobile phones.

Earlier, the court had asked the centre and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to apprise it about the steps which can be taken to scrutinise the existing and future mobile users in the country.

The bench was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Lok Niti Foundation, which has sought a direction to the centre to put in place a proper mechanism to check the authenticity of information provided by mobile users.

The verification has become more important in view of the fact that mobile phones are now being used for banking purposes also, it had said. The plea said that proper verification of mobile phone subscribers was necessary to avoid fake identities which caused grave risk to national security too.

The court had also asked DoT and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to respond to the letter written to them by the petitioner NGO giving suggestions on the mobile phone verification issue.

The petitioner had written the letter to DoT and Trai on 7 August 2014, saying there was a grave risk to national security because of lack of verification of mobile phone subscribers and had given suggestions for making systemic improvements to ensure the same.

In its petition before the apex court, the NGO has sought directions to DoT and Trai to ensure 100 per cent verification of mobile phone subscribers with regard to their identity, addresses and that no fake or unverified identity is accepted for subscription of mobile phones.

It also sought that Aadhaar card or other biometric identification may be made compulsory for verification of the mobile phone users.

It claimed that around 52.5 million mobile phone subscribers (about 5 per cent of the total) are unverified, despite the directions given by the apex court and instructions issued by DoT itself from time to time to ensure mobile phone subscriber verification.

''Unverified SIM cards pose a serious threat to the country's security as these are routinely used in criminal and terrorist activities,'' the petition said. The plea has sought strict implementation of subscriber verification guidelines and that physical verification be made compulsory in future and physical re-verification of existing subscriber base be conducted in a transparent manner.

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