In a crackdown against the alleged misuse of SIM cards by militants and their fraudulent sale by telecom vendors, the Jammu and Kashmir State Investigation Agency on Saturday carried out searches at 19 premises across the Valley, officials said.
The searches came in the face of the “ever-increasing misuse of SIM cards by militants”, their over-ground workers (OGWs), narcotics smugglers, and other criminals, they said.
“The SIA in 11 different FIR cases carried out searches at 19 premises spread all over Kashmir,” the officials said.
A majority of the premises belonged to the Point of Sale vendors who sold these SIM cards in violation of the Department of Telecom regulations and in a manner that amounts to forgery and cheating, they said.
The officials said in three cases, preliminary evidence “strongly indicated” that SIM cards were procured to help militants in maintaining their communication with their handlers across the border and other modules inside J-K.
Giving examples of the misuse, the officials said, a POS vendor in Chawalgam in Kulgam under the name M/S Airtel Micro World created a SIM card against a non-existent fictitious person namely Gowhar Ahmad Hajam, and gave the card to a person in Qaimoh in Kulgam who turned out to be an OGW of terror outfit Ansar-Gazwat-ul-Hind.
In another case, a POS vendor at Mir Mohalla Monghall of Anantnag created a SIM card for a subscriber who handed it over to an OGW of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) outfit, the officials said.
The houses of all the three — the vendor, the subscriber, and the OGW — were searched to look for additional evidence, the officials said.
In a third instance, four PoS vendors — one belonging to Konibal in Pampore, another to Walina, Ichgam in Budgam, the third one to Barzullah in Srinagar, and the fourth one to Lasjan — created SIMs in the name of real persons by stealing and misusing their identity documents, the officials said.
Subsequently, they said, these POS vendors fraudulently gave the SIM cards to unauthorized persons without the knowledge of the original persons.
Authorities have decided to take stringent measures against POS SIM card sellers who are found to be stealing identity documents of unsuspecting subscribers and creating SIM cards without the knowledge of original subscribers, the officials said.
“Similarly, PoS SIM card sellers who are found creating 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 most stringent provisions of law. Action would also be taken against POS SIM card sellers and subscribers who obtain SIM cards in excess of six cards which is the maximum number of SIM cards a person is allowed,” they said.
The officials “strongly” advised the telephone service providers to maintain a proper database to prevent dishonest POS SIM card sellers and subscribers to cheat the system by not disclosing their already issued SIM cards obtained from other service providers at the time of applying for additional new cards.
The administration is also considering making it an offense if a person willingly gives his or her SIM card to a person other than a family member for occasional and emergency use, they said.
The officials asked the POS SIM card sellers and individual subscribers to voluntarily come to the police station and surrender their excess SIM cards (more than six), “to escape criminal liability”.
“POS SIM card 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 black listed from all government benefits and contracts,” the officials said.