Centre for Development of Telematics begins testing phone monitoring system

The servers will enable security agencies to intercept calls without keeping telcos in the loop.


The Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT), a unit under the department of telecommunications (DoT), has begun technical and operational testing of its servers, linked to the servers of mobile operators. Once in operation, it would enable security agencies to tap phones, intercept and monitor calls without keeping telcos in the loop.

However, the requisite procedure for taking permission from designated authorities before any tapping is done would continue to be in place.

A senior DoT official confirmed that the process of testing may continue for over a month or two after which C-DoT will be mandated to maintain and run the CMS network. Once the CMS network is in place, government and security agencies do not have to take any support from telecom companies for phone-tapping or for interception and monitoring of communications like voice, data, SMS and internet as required by central and state-level law enforcement agencies.

The main server installed at C-DoT’s Delhi premises will act as the centralised data centre (CMC) whereas the Bengaluru centre will be the disaster recovery site. The CMS will have central and regional database which will help central and state level law enforcement agencies in interception and monitoring. The installation of an interception store and forward (ISF) server has also been completed at 195 locations across the country.

DoT will be overlook operation and maintenance of the system and support infrastructure, once commissioned. The idea of CMS to monitor calls, messages and internet activity was first announced by UPA government in 2009. CMS was supposed to be implemented by May 2015, which got delayed due to lack of funds.In 2011, the government had approved the CMS project to automate the process of lawful interception and monitoring of communications and had earmarked R400 crore for the purpose.

Under the law, only agencies such as the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and police departments of the Union territories are allowed to tap phones. The official process for tapping begins with these mandated agencies moving a request to their heads with details of the target and the phone that is required to be tapped. The permission is sought under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.

These agencies can raise interception request to CMS after receiving due authorization from Union Home ministry. CMS will process only those requests. For the three agencies under the finance ministry — ED, DRI and CBDT — any request for phone-tapping has to be routed through the revenue secretary.

All sanctions, unless renewed, expire in two months and can be extended only up to a maximum of 180 days. For an extension, the agency has to provide a gist of intelligence gathered in the first 60 days. Transcripts have to be destroyed after six months.

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