The Editors Guild of India today sought government intervention for the withdrawal of an FIR filed by the UIDAI over a newspaper report on the breach of details of more than one billion Aadhaar cards and called for an “impartial” investigation into the matter.
Criticising the lodging of the FIR, the Guild said it was “deeply concerned” over reports that Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Deputy Director B M Patnaik had registered an FIR over The Tribune newspaper report in the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police.
The reporter of the Tribune newspaper has been booked under the Indian Penal Code sections 419 (punishment for cheating under impersonation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery), 471 (using a forged document) and also under sections of the Information Technology Act and the Aadhar Act, it added.
Patnaik has informed the police that an input was received from The Tribune newspaper that it purchased a service being offered by anonymous sellers over WhatsApp, that provided unrestricted access to details of any of the more than 1 billion Aadhaar numbers, according to the police.
The FIR mentions the names of the journalist and the people the reporter reached out to purchase the Aadhaar data, but they have not been shown as accused, the police said.
Instead of penalising the reporter, the Guild said the “UIDAI should have ordered a thorough internal investigation into the alleged breach and made its findings public”.
“The Guild demands that the Union ministry concerned intervene and have the case over the newspaper report withdrawn apart from conducting an impartial investigation into the matter,” it added.
“The Tribune report of January 3 by journalist had exposed how, for a small sum of money made to a payment bank, an agent of a private group would allegedly create a gateway to access details contained in an individual’s Aadhaar card,” the Guild said.
Using a false identity, the reporter had posed as an interested party and claimed in her report that the journalist had an easy access to details that individuals had listed in their Aadhaar cards, it added.
The UIDAI in a statement had subsequently denied that any data breach was possible, the Guild said. “The Guild condemns the 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.
“It is unfair, unjustified and a direct attack on the freedom of the press,” it said.