A ‘wireless’ system enables the transfer of telegraphic messages or coded signals across considerable distances without wires or cables. Wireless transfer of messages was an innovative development in telecommunications and has considerably affected communication. Previously, a direct physical connection was required between a transmitter and a receiver. Wireless telegraphy enabled electrical signalling without medium.
The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 was an important legislation that has bolstered the country’s telecommunications industry and has evolved throughout the years to control wireless communication, protect national security, and support effective spectrum management.
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What is the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933?
The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 contains 11 Sections and received assent on 11 September 1933. The Act was created to provide rules related to the possession of wireless telegraphy objects.
Prior to the enactment of the Act, the Indian State Broadcasting Service suffered a huge loss of income due to unlicensed use of wireless equipment. The current legislation was enacted to curb any illegal possession of wireless telegraphy equipment.
In the modern context, the Act allows incidents related to illegal ownership and transmission via satellite phones to be prosecuted. The Department of Telecommunications states that a person is required to have a licence if he wants to own wireless communication equipment. By regulating the use of wireless telegraphy apparatus, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 has helped to ensure the orderly development of wireless communication services in India.
As per Section 2(1) of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933, ‘Wireless communication’ refers to the transmission, reception, or emission of various forms of information without physical wires or continuous electrical connections between transmitting and receiving devices.
Prohibition of possession of wireless telegraphy apparatus without a licence under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act
Section 3 of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 outlaws any individual to possess any wireless telegraphy apparatus unless they have a valid licence that complies with the regulations specified in this Act.
A licence is a must for possession of wireless telegraphy apparatus.
Power of the Central Government to exempt persons under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act
Section 4 of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 states that the Central Government can grant exemptions to individuals or groups of individuals. These exemptions can either be broad and unrestricted or they can be subject to specific conditions as prescribed by the government.
Licence under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act
Section 5 of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 states that the telegraph authority established by the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 was the body solely responsible for granting licences for the possession of wireless telegraphy apparatus under this Act.
This authority can issue these licences according to the regulations and guidelines specified, and such licences can be issued with specific terms, conditions, and fees according to the relevant authorities.
Offence and penalty under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act
Section 6 of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933 prescribes the offences and penalties in contravention of the act:
Possession of wireless telegraphy apparatus:
- Any person who has a wireless telegraphy apparatus in violation of Section 3 can be penalised.
- For a first offence, the punishment can be a fine of up to Rs 100.
- For a subsequent offence, that is, a second or any subsequent violation, the penalty can be a fine of up to Rs 250.
Possession of a wireless transmitter:
- Possessing a wireless transmitter against the regulations of Section 3 can make a person liable for severe penalties.
- The punishment can be imprisonment for up to 3 years or a fine of up to Rs 1000, or both.
Presumption of possession:
- In the context of this section, a court can assume that a person has a wireless telegraphy apparatus if such apparatus is under their apparent responsibility, or
- The apparatus is located in any premises or area that is coming under their control.
Confiscation of Apparatus:
- The court will determine whether any apparatus involved in the offence should be confiscated.
- The court can order the confiscation of the apparatus accordingly.
Power of search under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act
Section 7 of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 details an officer authorised by the Central Government to conduct searches in any building, vessel, or location where there is a reasonable belief that any wireless telegraphy apparatus related to an offence under Section 6 is being stored or concealed. This officer can seize such apparatus after conducting the required search procedure.
Apparatus confiscated or having no owner under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act
Section 8 of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 details if any wireless telegraphy apparatus is seized as per the sub-section (3) of Section 6.
If an owner of the apparatus cannot be identified, then such a property is regarded as the property of the Central Government.
Power to make rules under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act
Section 10 of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 states that the Central Government is authorised to create regulations in the Official Gazette for implementing the provisions of this Act. Such rules can provide for the following:
- Determining the items that are wireless telegraphy apparatus or items to be excluded from this category under this Act.
- Granting exemptions to individuals or groups of individuals talked about under Section 4 of the Act.
- Defining the procedures and conditions for issuing, renewing, suspending, or revoking licence, specifying the licence format, and establishing fees for issuing and renewing licences.
- Promoting record-keeping practices and documenting the acquisition and disposal of such equipment among dealers in wireless telegraphy apparatus, requiring them to, either through sale or other means.
- Setting guidelines for the sale of wireless telegraphy apparatus for dealers and manufacturers of these devices.
- The Central Government can stipulate the punishment for violation of the Act in terms of fines, with a maximum fine of Rs 100.
The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 is a British Era law that continues to be a part of India’s laws and regulations for telecommunications. With time, the Act has been amended to solve the problems caused by new technologies and the changing need for wireless communication environments. Regulations are modified as new technologies are developed to handle issues such as spectrum management, privacy, and security. Because communication is crucial for national security and defence, this Act is critical for safeguarding national interests. Any modifications to these areas include laws related to the maintenance of security. New rules can be added to the Act by consulting industry stakeholders, experts, and the general public.
What does a Wireless telegraphy apparatus mean under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933?
According to Section 2(2) of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933, ‘Wireless telegraphy apparatus’ refers to devices, materials, and instruments used in wireless communication. The Section covers items determined under Section 10 of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 but excludes items commonly used for other electrical purposes.
What power of confiscation does the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 grant?
Section 8 of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 states that the Central Government has the power to confiscate such apparatus in case of violations or unidentifiable owner. The Central government becomes the rightful owner of these wireless telegraphy devices.
What does wireless transmitter mean under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, of 1933?
According to Section 2(2A) of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933, a ‘wireless transmitter’ refers to any device, equipment, instrument, or material used to transmit or emit wireless communication signals.
Who enforces the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933?
The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933 is enforced by government authorities, including the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and other relevant agencies.
Which authority issues licences for wireless telegraphy apparatus under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933?
As per Section 5 of the Act, the telegraph authority established by the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 grants licences for wireless telegraphy apparatus. Such licences are issued with specific terms, conditions, and fees as prescribed by the relevant authorities.