Union Cabinet Approves Amendments To Make Aadhaar Card Optional For Mobile Connections, Banking

New Delhi, December 18: The Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the amendment to the two existing laws pertaining to the use of Aadhaar card by private entities. It has advocated amendments to the Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act to give legal backing for linking of Aadhaar number with bank accounts and mobile number.

On September 26, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar card but read down certain sections of Aadhaar act, including section 57. The key part of the section, as stated in the act, was:

“Nothing contained in this Act shall prevent the use of Aadhaar number for
establishing the identity of an individual for any purpose, whether by the State or any body corporate or person, pursuant to any law, for the time being in force, or any contract to this effect..”

An order by the Supreme Court imposed a restriction on the use of Aadhaar number by private companies. It was a provision in the Act that authorizes private entities like online platforms, telecom companies, and banks to ask for Aadhaar details from the customers for identification purposes. A five-judge bench headed by Justice AK Sikri had also struck down the requirement of Aadhar card by the school administration. It also said that linking of Aadhar card with mobile numbers is unconstitutional.

After it was struck down, private firms were not able to ask their customers to “mandatorily” link their Aadhaar card number. Now, the customer can voluntarily provide their 12-digit unique identity number to these private entities.

In order to overcome the lacuna and provide legal backing, the cabinet has approved the necessary changes required to make the need for Aadhaar card as “optional” while linking to the aforementioned services.

Changes expected

After the bill passes, it is foreseen that the updated law will be further amended in the interest to safeguard personal data and make sure the privacy of the cardholder is not jeopardized. According to a report by NDTV, the UIDAI will be turned into an independent authority, with powers to penalize those who demand Aadhaar details without approval.

The idea of Aadhar card was conceptualized under the regime of UPA government back in 2009.  It was envisioned as a tool to save cost in order to improve the delivery of subsidies to the poor by eliminating sham intermediaries.



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