Aadhaar FIR against Tribune reporter is an attack on the press: Editors Guild

The Guild said that it “condemns UIDAI’s action to have the Tribune reporter booked by the police as it is clearly meant to browbeat a journalist whose investigation on the matter was of great public interest”.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: January 8, 2018 6:48 am
Aadhaar, Aadhaar data breach, Aadhaar data breach Rs 500, Aadhaar data access Rs 500, Aadhaar biometric, How to lock Aadhaar biometric Calling UIDAI’s action unfair and unjustified, it called the FIR “a direct attack on the freedom of the press”.

The Editors Guild of India has condemned the move by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to file an FIR against Tribune reporter Rachna Khaira for her report that unknown agents had provided her access to Aadhaar’s demographic database for Rs 500.

The Guild said it is “deeply concerned over reports” of the FIR in the Crime Branch of Delhi Police. The Sunday Express reported that Khaira, alongwith others, has been booked under IPC sections 419 (punishment for cheating under impersonation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery), 471 (using a forged document) and under sections of the IT Act and the Aadhaar Act.

The Guild said that it “condemns UIDAI’s action to have the Tribune reporter booked by the police as it is clearly meant to browbeat a journalist whose investigation on the matter was of great public interest”. Calling UIDAI’s action unfair and unjustified, it called the FIR “a direct attack on the freedom of the press”.

The Guild stated that “instead of penalising the reporter, UIDAI should have ordered a thorough internal investigation into the alleged breach and made its findings public”. It demanded intervention of the concerned ministry to get the cases against the reporter withdrawn, “apart from conducting an impartial investigation into the matter”.

READ | Shooting messenger, ignoring message is govt culture, says Congress

The Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps and Press Association also expressed “strong objection and condemnation” on UIDAI’s action.

“If there is no breach, what is the offence they have supposed to have committed? Rather than addressing the loopholes which would actually ensure safety and security of the data and allay the general concerns about this, the UIDAI has chosen to persecute those whose actions appear to have been only in public interest,” they said in a statement.

The statement called the UIDAI move “intimidatory, obstructionist and inimical to the pursuit of free, fair and independent journalism”. Amnesty International also tweeted against UIDAI’s move, saying that “filing a criminal case against a journalist for exposing weaknesses in a massive government programme is an outrageous attack on freedom of expression”.

The UIDAI issued a statement defending its move. It said that “an impression is being created in media that UIDAI is targeting the media or whistleblowers” or “shooting the messenger”. It stated that it was “not at all true”. UIDAI said that “though there was no breach of Aadhaar biometric database, because UIDAI takes every criminal violation seriously, it is for the act of unauthorized access, criminal proceedings have been initiated”.

The parent body of the Aadhaar project said it “respects free speech including the freedom of press and media”. It said, however, that “whenever a crime is noticed, the concerned person is required to report in the form of FIR… It does not necessarily mean that everyone mentioned in the FIR is a culprit unless after a thorough and fair investigation the person is chargesheeted and proved to be guilty beyond doubt in the court of law”.

Invoking the Supreme Court’s judgment in Rajat Prasad v CBI case (2014), on a sting operation involving Union minister Dalip Singh Judeo, UIDAI said “whether the actions of any journalist in committing an offence is for a public interest or part of a journalistic exercise has to be ascertained on the basis of evidence recorded in the case”.

The Tribune report, dated January 3, had stated: “It took just Rs 500, paid through Paytm, and 10 minutes in which an ‘agent’ of the group running the racket created a ‘gateway’ for this correspondent and gave a login ID and password.

Lo and behold, you could enter any Aadhaar number in the portal, and instantly get all particulars that an individual may have submitted to the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India), including name, address, postal code (PIN), photo, phone number and email.”

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  1. Dharampal Gupta
    Jan 10, 2018 at 5:52 pm
    The FIR against press reporter may be an hasty step,but are we not trying to continue with the corrupt regime and do not want to plug the ways which are promoting corruption.Are we so naive not to understand the benefits of UDI.
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    1. prakash gotimukul
      Jan 8, 2018 at 11:50 am
      FIR against politician is attack on politicians, FIR against doctors is attack on doctors, FIR against terrorist is attack on terrorists. So no FIR shd be filed against any criminal. These are the fourth pillars of democracy. They are a disgraced lot. We just have to ignore them . Anyway most of them are agenda pushers, news traders and press utes.
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      1. ajith Mallu
        Jan 8, 2018 at 12:18 pm
        Are you out of your mind? The journalist in question did a service to the nation
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        1. Venkatraman Shenoy
          Jan 8, 2018 at 12:52 pm
          "FIR against politician is attack on politicians, FIR against doctors is attack on doctors, FIR against terrorist is attack on terrorists." But an FIR against a journo who steals from government is an attack on the Freedom Of Press, freedom of Expression and attack on "whistle blowers"!!!!! This whistle-blowing lady didn't know who gave her the password, but knows she bought it for Rs.500/-. Editors' Guild too is outraged against UIDAI, but falls silent when The Quint published top secret, confidential RAW file notings and puts Kulbhushan Jadhav's life in danger! Because of Quint's anti-national activities, Kulbhushan Jadhav is sure to be hanged by Pakistani army!!!!
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        2. blackpower 666
          Jan 8, 2018 at 11:36 am
          >No access to biometric records in the database - Section 28(5) of the Aadhaar Act disallows an individual access to the biometric information that forms the core of his unique ID. There are four problems with this. >This leaves no room to verify whether the biometrics have been recorded correctly or not in the first place, when that same information forms the basis of iden y. >This leaves open the possibility of fraudulently replacing a person’s biometric iden y. Even the enrolment operator (with a software hack) could upload someone else’s biometrics against another person. >This is totally unlike other iden y documents (like say passport), where all information necessary to serve as proof of iden y is printed on the document itself. It serves as receipt for the information supplied and is in the custody of the individual to whom it matters.
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          1. blackpower 666
            Jan 8, 2018 at 11:39 am
            As there is no access to the biometrics in the database, there is technically no means to ascertain beforehand whether one or more of the biometrics is due for update. The only way to guess is after facing an authentication failure on the field.
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          2. blackpower 666
            Jan 8, 2018 at 11:34 am
            AADHAR ISNT A ONETIME AFFAIR >This flies in the face of UIDAI’s repeated adverti ts that Aadhaar enrolment is a “one-time” affair. It is not and will never be. >This recognises the fact that biometrics is a changeable en y. Some of the obviously imaginable reasons are ageing, manual labour, injury, illness, etc. But is there a way whereby a person can look in the mirror or look at his fingers and estimate that he is due for update? There is no objective means to comply with the aforementioned sections. >Since the promise of Aadhaar as a unique iden y hinges on the uniqueness of biometrics, it would be logical to assume that any update to biometric data should go through the same rigour as a new enrolment. Regulation 19(a) under Chapter IV of the Aadhaar (Enrolment and Update) Regulations, 2016 is pretty clueless here
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            1. blackpower 666
              Jan 8, 2018 at 11:34 am
              >The conditionality imposed here is without precedent or law, not even for the worst convicts. Aside the ethical question, it is potentially a perpetual source of harassment, with no clearly defined solution. >Periodic update of biometrics has already been ins utionalized for the poorer sections of our society through such things as mandatory Aadhaar authentication for PDS rations. The other India can be easily netted by such things as mandatory eKYC for mobile SIMs from time to time.
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            2. MATHEWS GEORGE
              Jan 8, 2018 at 11:10 am
              If the news is fake, the reporter or whoever it is, should be punished
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              1. blackpower 666
                Jan 8, 2018 at 11:34 am
                how about punishing Modi for claiming total repatriation of black money and promising every citizen 15lacs?
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