Following the Supreme Court’s verdict on constitutionality of unique identification project Aadhaar on Wednesday, when it effectively asked telecom companies to stop insisting their customers to furnish Aadhaar for KYC exercise, the telecom ministry has gone back to the drawing board to chalk out an alternative plan to conduct the customer identification process that is compliant with the apex court’s judgment.
“Digital identity is required across platforms. So it’s not a question of Aadhaar or mobiles alone. A lot of people, because they move to the digital mode, they need some form of digital identity. Now if it cannot be Aadhaar, what should it be we have to evolve through this,” Secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Aruna Sundararajan said Thursday.
The apex court while holding Aadhaar as constitutionally valid declared section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, permitting private entities to avail Aadhaar data as unconstitutional. The section 57 of the act says “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 anybody corporate or person, pursuant to any law, for the time being in force, or any contract to this effect”.
On the further course of action, Sundararajan said: “First of all, we will have to ensure that in the coming days, we become completely compliant with what the Supreme Court has said in terms of data not being stored beyond the stipulated period; about private agencies not using Aadhaar database. For that we will be sitting down with the UIDAI and the law ministry to see how to become compliant. After that we will have to see, going forward, what is the way to ensure that eKYC – which was done in a particular way with Aadhaar – is possible in an alternate way without using Aadhaar.”
A senior executive at one of the leading telecom companies told The Indian Express that it has stopped asking its new customers for Aadhaar while on-boarding them and were not conducting biometric authentication using Aadhaar. “We immediately stopped Aadhaar-based authentication after the Supreme Court order,” the executive said, on condition of anonymity.
An official of another mobile services provider, however, said that the company was awaiting clarifications from the government. “Being an entity that operates under DoT’s licensing conditions, we will await clarification from the department before making amends to our procedures,” he said.
Meanwhile, telecom companies have started preparing for the older physical, paper-based methods for KYC to prevent any hassles with on-boarding of new customers. According to industry sources, eKYC methods cost 85 per cent lesser than paper-based customer identification processes. Also, the former took less than a minute to complete, while the traditional methods took at least three days to conclude.
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