Government may bring legal backing for private companies to use Aadhaar : 27-09-2018

The government could look at introducing new sectoral regulations or amending existing ones to allow entities such as banks and mobile companies to continue using the Aadhaar number for faster authentication and customer acquisition.

Such use has been banned by the Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act that allow sharing of data in this manner. Inter-ministerial consultations will be held to evaluate the government’s options.

Hours after the judgement was pronounced by the Supreme Court, FM Arun Jaitley said it was his preliminary understanding that Aadhaar use by private entities “pursuant to a contract” wasn’t permitted but that may not be the case if there is legislative support.

“My generic answer would be, on private entities, it needs to be backed by law. We have to see what is the rationale that they have given — that’s my understanding,” he said. “I have not had a detailed reading of the judgement yet.

Therefore, (in the case of) prohibited areas, don’t assume that are perpetually prohibited. They could be procedurally prohibited or prohibited as such.” The government will stay away from forbidden areas, the minister said. “What are prohibited areas, the government has no option. I am quite happy with permitted areas rather than be worried about the prohibited areas,” he said.

“The government has every intention to go exactly by this judgement. This judgement is the law declared. It will be followed. Wherever some follow-up action is to be taken in terms of rules being made or legislation being made, the government has the option,” Jaitley said.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, union minister for electronics and IT, law and justice, said that the court had struck down only a portion of Section 57 that referred to “contracts”. “There will be proper inter-ministerial consultation over issues of human resource ministry on use by CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), and other educational institutions, finance ministry on the use by banks, and the telecom ministry on use by mobile companies,” he said. After “widest consultation possible,” if some corrective measures are required to be taken, the government will take them.

Prasad also urged the fintech industry not to “panic” over the ruling. Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey said the judgement was a victory for Aadhaar. By disallowing the disclosure of Aadhaar data on national security grounds, barring its use by private companies without the backing of law and prohibiting illegal immigrants from getting a UID number, Aadhaar had been strengthened, he said. The UIDAI administers Aadhaar.

“Any new sectoral rule will have to fulfil the test of proportionality, necessity and legitimate aim of the state and have the backing of the law in order to be valid,” he said. “If the Aadhaar Act has been deemed constitutional, then Aadhaar can be used as an identity on a voluntary basis, wherever the person wants to use his identity — this is our understanding.” The Justice BN Srikrishna committee’s recommendations on the data protection law had a similar view, he said.

“What the majority judgement says for Section 57 has also been addressed in the Justice Srikrishna report, which says that anywhere that Aadhaar has to be put on a mandatory basis, it has to have a backing of the law, and that is the essence of this majority judgement too,” Pandey said. He said the Srikrishna report had recommended that the Aadhaar Act could be amended to allow its use by private entities.

RS Sharma, former UIDAI head and current chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), welcomed the verdict. “As someone who has had some role to play in the initial design and implementation of Aadhaar historically, I feel extremely happy and vindicated with the Supreme Court order that has underlined that Aadhaar is completely secure,” he said. “That is what I had maintained after my Twitter challenge as well. Not even a single biometric data has been hacked into in the eight-nine years that Aadhaar has been in existence.”

Sharma had previously issued a challenge to critics of the system to try and hack his Aadhaar. “Aadhaar doesn’t violate privacy, Aadhaar empowers the marginalised and is at the centre of public service delivery,” Sharma said. “There are some riders, which relate to application in various sectors, on which the court has given the verdict and I have no view on that.”

Jaitley defended the passage of the Aadhaar Act as a money bill, which dissenting judge DY Chandrachud had characterised as a fraud on the Constitution. “A money bill can only be brought as a money bill,” Jaitley said. “A finance bill cannot be brought as anything other than a money bill and as a money bill it runs another risk. If a normal legislation bill falls, the government doesn’t resign. If a money bill falls, the government has to resign. Therefore, the government takes a risk.” Aadhaar  .

“It is a historic judgement and the whole concept of unique identity number that has been accepted after judicial review is an extremely welcome decision,” Jaitley said. “There are now 122 crore people in India who have Aadhaar cards and our estimation is that by identifying beneficiaries of government schemes and ensuring that there are no fake or duplicate or non-existent beneficiaries, we are already saving Rs 90,000 crore every year.”

Source : Economic Times

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