Bangladesh: No consensus on holding operators liable for crimes committed by persons with SIMs

Posted on February 25, 2011  /  4 Comments

Crimes are committed. They should be prevented. If not, criminals should be punished. Someone must be held to account if the government cannot catch the criminal.

Why not the telecom operator whose phone the criminal used? Why not the manufacturer of the car/bus/auto/tricycle used in the crime? Why not the company that supplied the electricity that powered the mobile that helped the criminal? Why not the vendor of the fuel that powered the getaway car? Following deep discussion of these and other questions, the State Minister for Home Affairs spoke thus:

Mobile phone operators will be held responsible for usage of their SIM cards in crimes, said state minister for home yesterday.

The operators in such cases will have to provide identity and location of the offender to law enforcers, State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku told The Daily Star after a meeting with representatives of the country’s six mobile phone companies at the ministry.

The mobile operators, however, said the country’s laws do not indict them for the misuse of their services.

Well, it was not that bad, really. All they’d have to do is supply the identity and location of the offender. Otherwise the whole responsibility thing would kick in, I suppose.

Now I have always taken the position that there should not be SIMs unrelated actual human beings, in the same way that there shouldn’t be motor vehicles not registered to known humans. But as Pakistan found when actually checked, it’s not that simple. Various vendors (agents of agents of telecom operators) had used other people’s ID information to give SIMs to all and sundry. That is why I recommended to the government of Sri Lanka that they should also start such a service, where people could check on the SIMs associated with them and decommission those not used by them.

But this focuses on the relation between the SIM and the owner. The State Minister is fixated on the relation between the SIM and the operator. Luckily, the Minister in charge of the subject had no Cabinet solidarity.

He also refused to endorse State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku’s plan to hold mobile phone operators responsible for use of SIM cards in crimes.

That story.