The government has made tampering of IMEI number - a unique 15-digit serial number of mobile devices - a punishable offence carrying a 3-year jail term, in its bid to curb theft of mobile phones. According to commentators, the move will help curb issues pertaining to fake IMEI numbers and also ease tracking of lost mobile phones.
''It shall be unlawful, if a person, except the manufacturer – intentionally removes, obliterates, changes, or alters unique Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number,'' the Department of Telecom said in a notification dated 25 August.
Under the new rules called ''the prevention of tampering of the Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number, Rules, 2017'' users are barred from knowingly using mobile device whose IMEI number or the software that can change or tamper the unique number has been changed unlawfully.
IMEI is a unique ID of a mobile handset and when a user makes a call, the call record shows phone number of the caller and IMEI number of the handset from which the call has been made. The mobile number in a handset may be changed by changing SIM but IMEI number can be changed only by a trained person using special equipment.
The global industry body GSMA and bodies authorised by it can change the unique number of mobile devices. When a mobile phone is lost, the IMEI number is required for tracking the handset.
It is expected that the move will help curb the problem of fake IMEI numbers and facilitate tracking lost handsets.
"It shall be unlawful, if a person, except the manufacturer - intentionally removes, obliterates, changes, or alters unique Mobile Device Equipment Identification number," the telecom department (DoT) said in a notification dated 25 August.
According to commentators, the rules combine Sections 7 and 25 of the Indian Telegraph Act and while Section 7 gives the DoT the power to make rules for the conduct of telecom or telegraph services, Section 25 deals with damage to equipment with a penal provision of up to three years in jail or a fine, or both.