Srinagar: Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) Thursday said the decision to ban SMS service on prepaid mobile phones in Jammu and Kashmir was taken by the state government and not the centre.
The government-owned telecom major revealed this in a reply to a notice by the state human rights panel on a petition filed by an activist.
The SMS facility on prepaid mobile phones was withdrawn in the state in 2008 during the Amarnath land row agitation. But the facility was allowed on post-paid mobiles.
BSNL authorities told the state human rights panel that the decision was taken by the Jammu and Kashmir home department.
The petition demanded that the ban on SMS facility on prepaid mobiles be lifted as services like WhatsApp, facebook and twitter were operational in the state, making such a ban irrelevant.
"A smartphone service like WhatsApp allows exchange of messages using only the internet data plan. It does not matter whether you have a prepaid or postpaid phone connection.
"It also allows the creation of groups, unlimited messages, audio and video messages. In the wake of such a strong and powerful service being available freely to Jammu and Kashmir residents, it is beyond any sensible reason to ban the affordable SMS service on prepaid phones.
"Last year, Union Minister Sachin Pilot during a visit to Jammu and Kashmir had also said that people needed and deserved this service," the petitioner said.
A senior intelligence officer, however, told a news agency that the decision was "good" because prepaid SIM cards were issued by service providers without proper verification.
"We have seized dozens of prepaid SIM cards from militants during operations in the past. This proves that prepaid SIM cards had been issued without proper scrutiny. These SIM cards were used to pass on messages by the militants and anti-social elements to foment trouble," he said.
"In contrast to this, postpaid SIM cards were issued after proper verification thereby preventing their use for subversive activities."
The officer, however, agreed that in the light of free access to messaging facilities through smartphones, the rationale to ban SMS facility on prepaid phones may not stand.
He also agreed that various service providers have now been issuing prepaid SIM cards after proper verification.
"But there is a ban on sending SMS messages in bulk on postpaid phones as well. You cannot send more than 100 messages from a single SIM card during a day. This was necessary to prevent rumour mongers and anti-social elements from spreading panic among the people," the officer said.
The petition seeking revocation of the state government order banning SMS facility on prepaid phones will come up for hearing Aug 27.