On 3rd January 2023, the Ministry of Communications (“Ministry”) notified the Indian Telegraph (Infrastructure Safety) Rules, 2022 (“Rules”). The Rules provide the procedure to be followed by any person that seeks to excavate a property in the exercise of a legal right and such excavation is likely to cause damage to the telegraph infrastructure or impede telegraphic communication. The Rules have been notified considering the loss incurred by the telecommunication sector due to the excavation activities that cause damage to the telegraph infrastructure.
Salient Features of the Rules are as follows:
- Notice – Prior to the commencement of excavation, any person that seeks to undertake the excavation of a property, that may likely cause damage to telegraph infrastructure, will be required to provide a notice of excavation to the licensee [licensee refers to any person holding a telecom license under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 (“Act”)] through a common online portal developed by the Government.
- Information to be provided under the Notice – The person that seeks to undertake the excavation shall provide the following details – name and address of the person that seeks to exercise their legal right, agency details, contact details, date and time of the start of such excavation, description and location of the exercise, and the reasons for such excavation/digging.
- Details to be provided by the licensee – The licensee will be required to expeditiously provide, through the common portal, the details of telegraph infrastructure owned or controlled, or managed by the licensee which falls under, over, or along the property that the person seeks to excavate. Additionally, the licensee will provide precautionary measures for coordination in avoiding damages to the telegraph infrastructure. Consequently, the person that seeks to excavate the property in pursuance of their legal right will be required to implement the appropriate precautionary measures as provided by the licensee.
- Failure to provide details by the licensee – In the event a licensee does not provide details within the prescribed time as specified under Section 19A of the Act, the person will be free to excavate the property in pursuance of their legal right.
- Penalty – If the excavation of a property causes damage to the telegraph infrastructure, then such a person excavating the property, in pursuance of their legal right, will be liable to pay damages to the telegraph authority. The quantum of damages will be calculated based on the cost incurred for restoring the damaged telegraph infrastructure.
Owing to the vital nature of telegraph infrastructure in the development of the Indian economy, the Rules are a step in the right direction. The Rules are holistically beneficial for all stakeholders in the telegraph infrastructure ecosystem, including licensees and consumers. These Rules seek to curb the restoration costs incurred by businesses due to excavations, thereby preventing the economic loss suffered by licensees (estimated at Rs. 3000 crores per annum in the preceding years). Also, the Rules will contribute towards bringing about seamless services to customers by reducing interruptions to telecom services caused due to frequent breakdown of telecommunication infrastructure by enabling better synergy between the agencies. Additionally, the newly introduced mandate to provide notice (through a common portal) to licensees prior to commencing an excavation, and, the imposition of penalty in the event of any damage will increase transparency and accountability in the telegraph infrastructure ecosystem.
PIB press release on the Indian Telegraph (Infrastructure Safety) Rules 2022: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1889267
The Indian Telegraph (Infrastructure Safety) Rules 2022: https://dot.gov.in/sites/default/files/Gazette%20Notification%20-ITIS%20Rules-03-01-2023.pdf