Parliament Passes Telecommunications Bill, Empowering Government Control for National Security

Parliament passed the Telecommunications Bill, 2023, on Thursday, granting the government the authority to temporarily assume control of telecom services in the interest of national security. The bill, which received approval through a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha, had already been passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday following a brief debate.

The key provisions of the Telecommunications Bill include empowering the government to temporarily take control of telecom services for national security reasons and establishing a non-auction pathway for allocating satellite spectrum. Additionally, it allows the government to take possession of a telecom network during public emergencies or in the interest of public safety.

The bill authorizes the halting of transmission and interception of messages during public emergencies to prevent incitement for committing offenses in the interest of public safety. Notably, the legislation specifies that the press messages of correspondents accredited to the Centre or state governments should not be intercepted or detained unless their transmission is prohibited under rules applicable to public emergencies and public order.

Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, responding to the debate, emphasized that the Telecommunications Bill 2023 aims to fulfill the aspirations of the new India by replacing two colonial-era laws. He highlighted the transformation of India’s telecom sector over the last nine and a half years, evolving from a challenging period marked by scams to becoming a sunrise sector.

Vaishnaw pointed out the significant growth in the number of telecom towers, increasing from 6 lakh in 2014 to 25 lakh at present, and the rise in internet broadband users from 1.5 crore to 85 crore today. He credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership for India achieving the fastest rollout of 5G technology globally, with a substantial portion of the equipment manufactured in India.