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I live in India and would like to know whether it is legal to listen to on the air transmissions there.

I know that transmitting is allowed only in limited frequencies and strictly require a HAM license here. But does it apply for reception also?

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Two things here. Per the 1984 amendment to the Amateur Service Act vide. GSR#1225/84

  • An SWL licence is required to use a communications receiver. This is available 'upon request' from the WPC for a nominal fee
  • Caveat Emptor This category of licence may have been superseded by a later amendment made in 2009/2010; let me ask around and get back to you
  • The 2009/2010 amendment to the Amateur Service act indeed does away with the SWL category. The former 'low privilege' categories namely Grade.II, Grade.II (restricted - VHF/UHF only), and SWL are now amalgamated into a newly created 'Restricted' category.

IMHO this means you may not listen in. But don't take my word for it (+: phone the WPC/Amateur Section (the number is listed on the WPC website)

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The Wireless Telegraph Act 1973 says: “The receiving apparatus of any wireless telegraph shall not be used for any unauthorized reception or interception of wireless telegraph communications”. I suspect this is more to do with listening in to police or aircraft radio (for which two UK plane-spotters [were] charged with intercepting communications in 2010) rather than listening to amateur transmissions.

The Act is quite similar to the UK law, which still forbids listening to unauthorized transmissions (UK guidance: Guidance on Receive-Only Radio Scanners). I suspect you'll be okay listening to amateur radio as an SWL, but I don't know for sure.

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In some countries, such as England, you need a license just to use a TV, so I suppose there might be something similar in India. That said, there might also be military and government transmissions that are not legal to listen to. Sniffing cellular data or eavesdropping on cordless phones might violate privacy laws. Most laws around the world regarding what you can receive govern decrypting or descrambling a secured signal, and not reception of the signal itself. As far as amateur bands go, you can listen all you want without a license.

You might check here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_radio_in_India and here http://www.hamradio.in/amateur_radio/ for more information specific to India.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi Andrew, and welcome. We don't use taglines on the Stack Exchange network, as your answer is already tagged with a link to your user profile. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Sep 17 '14 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ In some countries the reception of everything is actually permitted (after all you're doing it in your own house). It is only prohibited to communicate whatever you received to others. $\endgroup$ – jcoppens Sep 20 '14 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ @jcoppens The question, however, is specifically about India. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Oct 2 '14 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, Michael, I know that. But generally reception of radio cannot be limited by legal law (though there have been many attempts to do so). Laws of physics rule what you receive. So you could call what enters your home without permission, an invasion of privacy. The main worry is generally limiting what gets republished. And this tends to be a general rule in all countries. On the other hand, only transmitting tends to be actively legislated. $\endgroup$ – jcoppens Oct 4 '14 at 17:53

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