June 16, 2024

High Court Calls for Greater Regulation of SIM Issuance

In the wake of a significant cyber fraud case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered the central government to tighten its control over SIM card distribution. In this case, numerous fraudulent SIM card activations were identified. Sumit Nandwani from Madhya Pradesh, the cybercrime culprit, had his bail application dismissed by Justice Anoop Chitkara. Nandwani, imprisoned in Hisar’s Central Jail, is alleged to have provided SIM cards to others involved in the sophisticated scam.

During the investigation, Haryana detectives discovered that Nandwani has procured 35 prepaid SIM cards using his Aadhaar card. Following this discovery, the court directed telecom companies, including Airtel, BSNL, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone Idea, to fully assist the investigation. They were ordered to give full details about any SIM cards registered under Nandwani’s name. Rajesh Mohan, Assistant Superintendent of Police from Hisar, also submitted an in-depth list of these SIM cards, unveiling the transactions related to the crime.

Nandwani’s bail was denied by the court. It suggested that the Ministry of Telecommunications could require telecom companies to limit one SIM card per Aadhaar card. The Court also proposed converting validated prepaid SIM cards to post-paid ones, disconnecting all multiple prepaid cards by a certain deadline. Introducing measures such as automatically blocking incoming international calls, with an optional unblock feature for those who want it, could also prevent unauthorized and cons. The Supreme Court had earlier highlighted in the Vernon v. The State of Maharashtra case the importance of limiting the number of mobile connections per person which further pushed this regulatory approach.

The roots of this case trace back to the previous year when a man named Rakesh received a fraudulent invitation to earn money from home through a WhatsApp message on August 27, 2023. He was eventually conned into losing over Rs 8 lakh. The investigation, managed by Haryana Police ASI Narender Kumar, led to the discovery of multiple bank accounts and mobile numbers linked to the fraud. It emerged that POS agent Nandwani had enabled scam-connected SIMs registered under various fake names.


What is the government doing to prevent SIM Card Fraud?

The Government, in collaboration with Telecom service providers, is strengthening regulations around the issuance of SIM cards. For instance, the court recently suggested carrying out a validation process limiting one SIM card per Aadhaar card and converting other prepaid ones into post-paid. Additionally, it proposed blocking international calls by default to prevent unauthorized and fraudulent communications.

Who was involved in this recent Cyber Fraud Case?

Sumit Nandwani, a resident of Madhya Pradesh, was the key perpetrator. He was alleged to have provided activated SIM cards to co-conspirators involved in a major online scam. Nandwani, who worked as a POS agent, had activated multiple SIM cards used in the fraud, and registered them under fictitious names.

What was the modus operandi of this fraud?

The origin of the fraud dates back to when a man named Rakesh received a fraudulent WhatsApp message inviting him to earn money from home. Following the instructions from the message sender, Rakesh ended up registering on a sham website and was subsequently scammed of over Rs 8 lakh. Initial interactions included several repayments, building trust that led Rakesh to make further deposits that were never reimbursed.