SRINAGAR: In a widespread crackdown on the increasing misuse of SIM cards, the State Investigation Agency (SIA) on Saturday carried out searches at 19 premises spread across Kashmir and found that vendors sold SIMs to terrorists, overground workers (OGW), and narcotics smugglers.
The raids were conducted in 11 different registered cases. A majority of the premises belonged to PoS vendors who sold these cards in violation of Department of Telecom regulations and in a manner that amounts to forgery and cheating.
In three cases, preliminary evidence strongly indicated that SIMs were procured to help the terrorists in maintaining their communication with their handlers across the border and other modules inside Jammu and Kashmir.
For example, a POS vendor in Kulgam’s Chawalgam under the name of M/S Airtel Micro World issued a SIM card against a non-existent factious person namely Gowhar Ahmad Hajam, and gave the card to a person in Qaimoh who turned out to be an OGW of terror outfit Ansar-u- Gazwatul Hind.
In another case, a PoS vendor of Mir Mohalla Monghall of Anantnag created a SIM card for a subscriber who handed it over to an OGW of Hizbul Mujahideen. The houses of all three (the vendor, the subscriber, and the OGW) were searched for additional evidence.
In the third instance, four PoS vendors in Pampore, Budgam, Srinagar, and Lasjan issued SIMs in the name of real persons by stealing their identities and misusing their identity documents. Subsequently, these PoS vendors fraudulently gave the SIM cards to unauthorized persons without the knowledge of the original persons.
The government has decided to take stringent measures against SIM card sellers who are found to be stealing identity documents of unsuspecting subscribers and creating SIM cards without the knowledge of original subscribers.
Similarly, PoS vendors who are found issuing SIM cards on the basis of forged documents in the name of persons who do not exist in real life will also be proceeded against by invoking the sternest provisions of law. Action would also be taken against SIM card sellers and subscribers who purchased more than six SIM cards which is the maximum number of SIM cards a person is allowed.
Telephone service providers have been strongly advised to maintain a proper database to prevent dishonest SIM card sellers and subscribers to cheat the system.
The government is also considering making it an offence if a person willingly gives his SIM card to a person other than their family members for occasional and emergency use.
POS vendors and individual subscribers who voluntarily come to the police station and surrender their excess SIM cards (more than six) would escape criminal liability, said a senior police officer.
Sellers who have issued SIM cards in different names using the photo of one person are also likely to be searched, and if found guilty, are likely to be arrested besides being blacklisted from all government benefits and contracts, said police sources.