Indian Telegraph Act, 1885

This topic of “Indian Telegraph Act, 1885” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Recent News

The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, is set to be replaced by the new Telecommunications Bill, 2023, which was recently passed by both houses of India’s Parliament and now awaits presidential assent. This new bill aims to modernize the regulatory framework for telecommunications in India, addressing national security, public safety, and the administrative allocation of spectrum, while also maintaining provisions for intercepting communications during emergencies

The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, enacted on the 22nd of July, 1885, is a significant legislation aimed at amending telegraph laws in India. Let’s delve into its various aspects:


  • Purpose: To amend telegraph law in India

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PART I: Preliminary

Section 1: Title, Extent, Commencement

  • Title: Indian Telegraph Act, 1885
  • Act Number: 13 of 1885
  • Extent: Extends to the whole of India
  • Commencement: Effective from 1st October 1885

Section 2: Repeal and savings

  • Repeal and Savings: Repealed by Repealing Act, 1938

Section 3: Definitions

  • Definitions:
    • Fund: Refers to the Universal Service Obligation Fund.
    • Universal Service Obligation:
      • Access to telegraph services.
      • Particularly aimed at rural and remote areas.
      • Ensures services are available at affordable prices.
    • Telegraph:
      • Involves transmission and reception devices.
      • Encompasses various types of transmissions such as wire, visual, electromagnetic, etc.
    • Telegraph Officer: Employee of the Central Government.
    • Message: Communication conducted via telegraph.
    • Telegraph Line: Wire with components necessary for telegraph communication.
    • Post: Supports for telegraph lines.
    • Telegraph Authority: Refers to the Director General of Posts and Telegraphs.
    • Local Authority: Includes municipal and local fund managers.

PART II: Privileges and Powers of the Government

Section 4: Exclusive Privilege and Licenses

  • Central Government Privileges: The government holds exclusive privileges concerning telegraph services.
  • Conditions for Telegraph Licenses: Specific conditions are set for obtaining telegraph licenses.
  • Wireless and Other Telegraphs: Conditions regarding wireless and other telegraph services, including specific locations.
  • Payments and Obligations: This includes obligations such as the Universal Service Obligation, ensuring accessibility and affordability.

Section 5: Possession and Interception

  • During Public Emergency or Safety: The government may possess or intercept messages during public emergencies or for safety reasons.
  • Conditions for Message Interception: Strict conditions are set for the interception of messages.
  • Exemptions for Press Messages: Certain exemptions exist for press messages.

Section 6: Telegraph on Railway Land

  • Obligations of Railway Company: The responsibilities of railway companies regarding telegraph infrastructure on their land.

Section 6A: Rates for International Messages

  • Factors Affecting Rates: Various factors affect international message rates, including exchange rates.

Section 7: Conduct Rules for Telegraphs

  • Notification and Fines for Breaches: Rules regarding notification and fines for breaches of telegraph conduct.
  • Specific Rule Provisions: Details on message transmission rates, interception precautions, etc.
  • Rule-making Authority: The authority for making rules lies with the Central Government.

Section 7A: Existing Agreements

  • Respect for Pre-existing Agreements: The act respects agreements made prior to its enactment.

Section 7B: Arbitration of Disputes

  • Arbitration Process: Details on the arbitration process for resolving disputes.
  • Finality of Arbitration: The finality of arbitration decisions.

Section 8: Revocation of Licenses

  • Conditions for Revocation: The conditions under which licenses may be revoked.

Section 9: Liability for Loss or Damage

  • Government and Officer Liabilities: Responsibilities of the government and its officers for loss or damage.

PART IIA: Universal Service Obligation Fund

Section 9A: Establishment of the Fund

  • Commencement: The fund’s establishment post the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act, 2003.
  • Control: The fund is under the control of the Central Government.
  • Contents of the Fund: Details on what constitutes the fund, including sums paid under Section 9B and grants or loans by the Central Government.
  • Non-lapsing of Balance: Balances in the fund do not lapse.

Section 9B: Crediting of Sums to Consolidated Fund of India

  • Sums from Universal Service Obligation: Details on sums credited from the Universal Service Obligation.
  • Appropriation by Parliament: The process of appropriation by Parliament.

Section 9C: Grants and Loans by Central Government

  • Appropriation by Parliament: Similar to Section 9B, but focusing on grants and loans into the fund.

Section 9D: Administration and Utilisation of Fund

  • Administered by Central Government: The fund is administered by the Central Government.
  • Exclusively for Universal Service Obligation: The fund is exclusively for fulfilling universal service obligations.
  • Coordination and Timely Utilisation: Ensuring coordination and timely utilization of the fund’s resources.

PART III: Power to Place Telegraph Lines and Posts

Section 10: Authority to Place Telegraph Lines and Posts

  • Authority: Vest with the Telegraph Authority.
  • Conditions:
    • Exclusively for government telegraphs.
    • No acquisition of property rights.
    • Permissions from local authorities required.
    • Minimal damage with compensation.

Section 11: Access for Maintenance

  • Authority’s Right: Access for repairs and alterations.

Section 12: Local Authority Permissions

  • Conditions: Imposed by local authorities regarding telegraph placement.

Section 13: Requirement to Alter or Remove

  • Local Authority’s Right: Request for alterations or removals.

Section 14: Altering Position of Utilities

  • Authority Over Non-main Pipes and Drains: For telegraph line adjustments.
  • Notice and Supervision Requirements: Before altering positions.

Section 15: Disputes with Local Authorities

  • Resolution: Handled by appointed officers.
  • Appeals: To the Central Government.

Section 16: Powers and Disputes for Non-Local Authority Property

  • District Magistrate’s Role: In resolving disputes.
  • Offences and Resolutions: Defined procedures.

Section 17: Changes by Property Owners

  • Owner-Initiated Changes: Requirements and financial responsibilities.

Section 18: Tree Removal for Line Safety

  • Magistrate’s Authority: For removal with compensation.

Section 19: Status of Existing Telegraph Lines

  • Deemed Compliance: With the Act’s provisions.

Section 19A: Notice for Activities Likely to Cause Damage

  • Prior Notice Requirements: Emergency provisions outlined.

Section 19B: Powers Conferred on Licensees

  • Extension of Authority Powers: To licensees with conditions and restrictions.

PART IV: Penalties

Section 20: Unauthorised Telegraphs

  • Penalties: For unauthorized wireless and other telegraphs.
  • Legal Provisions: Differentiated for wireless.
  • Court Authority: May order forfeiture to the Government.

Section 20A: Breach of License Conditions

  • Fine: For contraventions and continued breaches.

Section 21: Using Unauthorised Telegraphs

  • Penalty: For misuse.

Section 22: Non-compliance by Railway Companies

  • Fine: For non-compliance.

Section 23: Trespass and Obstruction

  • Penalties: For unauthorized access.

Section 24: Learning Message Contents Unlawfully

  • Additional Penalties: For unlawful actions.

Section 25: Damage or Tampering with Telegraphs

  • Penalties: Defined for various intentions.

Section 25A: Interference with Telegraph Lines

  • Wilful or Negligent Damage: With associated penalties.

Section 26: Misuse of Official Capacity

  • Penalties: For specific acts by telegraph personnel.

Section 27: Fraudulent Transmission

  • Penalties: For fraudulent transmission attempts.

Section 28: Misconduct by Telegraph Personnel

  • Penalties: For various misconducts.

Section 29A: Falsification of Documents

  • Penalty: For document falsification.

Section 30: Retention of Misdelivered Messages

  • Penalty: For retaining or concealing messages.

Section 31: Bribery

  • Classification: Of telegraph officers as public servants.

Section 32: Attempts to Commit Offences

  • Penalty: Equivalent to actual offences.

PART V: Supplemental Provision

Section 33: Additional Police Employment

  • Conditions: For employment related to telegraph mischief.
  • Funding: Costs charged to inhabitants with recovery procedures.
  • Geographic Definition: Defined by the State Government.

Section 34: Application to Presidency-Towns

  • Adjusted Terminologies: To suit Presidency-Towns.
  • Fee Specifications: Aligned with relevant acts.

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