Author: Astha Srivastava, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi
Parliament has passed Aadhaar and other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 which allows voluntary use of Aadhaar as proof of identity for users to open bank documents and get a mobile phone connection. The Bill provides for a stiff Rs. 1 crore penalty and a jail term for private entities violating provisions on Aadhaar data.
‘Identities float in the air, some of one’s own choice but others inflated and launched by those around, and one needs to be constantly on the alert to defend the first against the second’…… Zygmunt Bauman
We come across everyday with the demand of some IDs everywhere. But much hangs on what we produce. Being able to enter some workplaces or join the fast-track line at the airport or simply withdraw cash from ATM-each depends on having ID. Equally, without the right ID one may be refused to emergency medical attention, denied access to secure website, or turned away at the border.
Aadhaar, as the name suggests is a Hindi word, the meaning of which is base or the foundation. In India, Aadhaar is a project which provides all citizens and residents of India, a unique identity by submitting their biometric details to a government-controlled repository, called as Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
In the case of Justice K.S Puttaswamy vs. Union of India and Ors., a petition was filed challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar project contending that there was a violation of the right to privacy of citizens since the registration for Aadhaar is made mandatory.
The main reason why the case of infringement of privacy was filed because the Government of India asked for biometrics of citizens to provide them with Aadhaar cards. The Aadhaar scheme makes it mandatory for all citizens to have the Aadhaar card otherwise they would suffer problems with respect to opening bank accounts, payment of taxes, etc. To correct many loopholes in the previous act, The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has been passed by the Parliament.
This Bill [Aadhaar and other Laws(Amendment) Bill,2019] aimed to amend three acts; the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 and further to amend the Indian Telegraph Act,1885 and the prevention of Money Laundering Act,2002.
The Bill further allows linking of the 12-digit identification number to open bank accounts or getting a mobile connection.
Main Facets of this Bill:-
- Offline Verification: Offline Verification means the use of Aadhaar number to establish identity without authentication using biometric data or other electronic means. The Bill permits offline verification of Aadhaar number for identification purposes. As per the present act, Aadhaar number without electronic authentication cannot be used to verify identity. Presently, offline verification can be done only through QR Code.
- Expanded meaning of Aadhaar Number: The new meaning now includes any alternative virtual identity generated that people can use to mask their Aadhaar number and share information with third parties. The virtual identity enables one to authenticate identity without providing Aadhaar number. The UIDAI will decide whether an entity should be permitted the use of the actual Aadhaar number or virtual identity.
- Deletion of Section 57 of Aadhaar Act: The Bill proposes the deletion of Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act relating to the use of the biometric identifier by private entities. The Amendment also prevent denial of services for refusing to or being unable to, undergo authentication.
- Establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund: The Amendment provides for the establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund, and confers enhanced regulator-like power on the UIDAI to give directions as it may consider necessary to any entity in the Aadhaar ecosystem.
- Minors and Aadhaar: It provides that the enrolling agency shall, at the time of enrolment of a child, seek the consent of the parent or guardian of the child and inform them that such Aadhaar holder may within 6 months of attaining the age of 18 years, make an application to the authority for cancellation of his Aadhaar number.
- Amendment to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act: Voluntary use of Aadhaar before opening a bank account is permitted through this amendment. The PMLA(Maintenance of Records)(Second Amendment)Rules brought by the government in 2017 mandating the linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts was also struck down by SC.
- Order of Disclosure by High Court Judge: The Authority who can issue orders to disclose Aadhaar information is changed from ‘District Judge’ to ‘High Court Judge’.
- Civil Penalties: Any contravention in collection, use, and disclosure of Aadhaar information amounts upto maximum of Rs. 1 crore. In a continuing case of contravention, an additional penalty of Rs. 10 lakhs for everyday shall be charged.
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