Private entities can't use jammers: Govt

Even as cellphone jammers are freely available in the market, including on e-commerce platforms, the Union government has clarified that private sector organisations or private individuals cannot procure or use such devices in India. The Cabinet Secretariat on Thursday put up a ''jammer policy'' on its website, saying norms have been evolved for procurement and use of jammers by states/Union territories, defence forces and the police.

The new norms call for the "need to guard against random proliferation'' of such devices. The objective is to ensure that there's no interference with the existing mobile phone networks and with the equipment being used for security agencies, according to the policy.

Although the Indian Telegraph Act necessitates government permission before jamming any mobile or a network, sale and use of communication blocking devices have been on the rise. Many companies, individuals, libraries, and entertainment hubs are known to use jammers sold under various names across stores and websites. Internationally too, installing jammers by private parties is a tricky issue. In the US also, it is a violation of a federal law to use cell jammers. According to the Federal Communications Commission, consumers cannot legally use jammers in the US nor can retailers lawfully sell them. But theatres, restaurants, schools and colleges often use jammers to block communication.

The norms in India state that prior permission of secretary (security), Cabinet Secretariat, must be obtained in the prescribed format before procurement of jammers. Besides defence forces and state police departments, jail authorities and Central government security agencies can procure the devices. The policy has given a list of manufacturers and models for jammers too. Anything beyond this list will be treated as a violation.

Statutory examination conducting bodies under the Central or state government are also permitted to block communication using ''low powered jammers''. This is to prevent unfair means during exams. But exam conducting bodies will have to take such devices on lease or rent from authorised public sector units, and not own them.

Although the vendor list for jammers includes only two names now-Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL)-more manufacturers can be engaged in future.

Date: 17th July 2015

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