Noting that even the mandatory physical verification system doesn’t prevent SIM cards to fall into wrong hands, the home ministry has asked the department of telecommunication (DoT) to explore an option of making it compulsory for cellphone service providers to take fingerprints or any other biometric feature of the subscriber, akin to Aadhaar, before activating the mobile numbers.
The ministry, in its note to the DoT, suggested that the department may also maintain a central database comprising biometric features of all subscribers and opt for linking it with the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) for keeping those data at one place from national security point of view.
An official said the department would discuss the matter with all stakeholders including telecom service providers for devising an alternative system as it was noted that the existing ones (physical verification) was not happening in all cases due to sheer competition among retailers to sell as many SIM cars as possible.
Though the system of issuing SIM cards was tightened a bit after 2611 Mumbai terror attack when investigators found that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists had used Indian SIM cards which were procured by their local contacts on the basis of forged documents, it did not prevent its misuse.
The DoT had last year made it mandatory for a mobile service provider to physically verify an applicant before issuing a SIM card. But, the state police from across the country complained how the retailers give it a miss despite repeated warnings because they did not face strict action from the service providers.
“The issue was discussed even during the chief ministers’ conference on internal security here last month when it was pointed out that how SIM cards were being procured by terroristscriminals on the basis of forged documents in absence of retailers’ and distributors’ failure to adhere to the mandatory norms of physical verification,” said an official.
The matter was recently also raised by the Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar, who on May 15 wrote to the home ministry, pitching for introducing a system of getting biometric details of subscribers before issuing SIM cards to them.