Telegraph Act, 1885 – UPSC GS3

  • It deals with interception of calls. Section 5(2) allows for the interception.
  • The section states that the Central Government or a State Government or any officer specially authorized by them may order interception of any telegraph.
  • He/she can direct that any message or class of messages shall not be transmitted, or shall be intercepted or detained, or shall be disclosed to the Government making the order. The reasons for such an order should be recorded in writing.
  • Such an order can be made in the interests of
    • the sovereignty and integrity of India,
    • the security of the State,
    • friendly relations with foreign states or
    • public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence.
  • Additionally, a proviso in Section 5(2) states that even this lawful interception cannot take place against journalists.
  • Public Union for Civil Liberties v Union of India (1996):
    • The SC pointed out the lack of procedural safeguards in the provisions of the Telegraph Act and laid down certain guidelines for interceptions.
    • It called for setting up a review committee that can look into authorisations made under Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act.
  • These guidelines formed the basis of introducing rule 419A in the Telegraph Rules in 2007 and later in the rules prescribed under the IT Act in 2009.
  • Rule 419A states that a Central Home Secretary and State Home Secretary can issue interception orders on behalf of the center and state governments, respectively.
  • In unavoidable circumstances, Rule 419A adds, such orders may be made by an officer, not below the rank of a Joint Secretary.
  • However, such an officer should be duly authorised by the Union Home Secretary or the state Home Secretary.
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