The Telecommunications Bill 2023 – which will allow the Centre to take over, manage or suspend any telecommunication network for “national security” purposes – was on Monday tabled in the Lok Sabha.

Introduced by Union Ministry for Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw, the bill seeks to replace the 138-year-old Indian Telegraph Act, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933 and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act 1950.

The Union Cabinet had cleared the bill in August.

It states that “on the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of public safety”, any message can be “intercepted or detained” by the Central or state governments.

It also provides for an appropriate mechanism to ensure that messages of a user or group of users authorised for response and recovery during a public emergency are routed on priority.

The bill grants the central government the exclusive privilege to “provide telecommunication services”, operate networks and issue licences to telecom service providers.

Introducing changes to the manner in which spectrum is to be allotted for satellite broadband services, the bill states that spectrum for such services can be assigned on administered prices, without auction.

The bill also says that unlawful interception of messages may attract a jail term of up to three years, a fine of up to Rs 2 crore or both. It provides for the creation of a Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal.

The draft Telecommunications Bill released last year had proposed the inclusion of new-age over-the-top, or OTT, communication services like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram in the definition of telecommunication services.