A Bill to allow voluntary use of Aadhaar as an identity proof for opening bank accounts and procuring mobile phone connections was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday.
Rolling out stiff penalties for violation of norms, the Bill proposes to amend the Aadhaar Act 2016 and replace an ordinance promulgated in March.
Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019. RSP member N K Premachandran, representing Kollam constituency of Kerala, opposed the move.
Prasad maintained that “Aadhaar does not violate privacy”. “And, it is in national interest,” he affirmed. The minister said all issues which Premachandran had raised had been “dealt with”. He said the usage of Aadhaar for opening bank accounts and SIM-linking was so far being done through circulars and rules and added that it will be done through an Act of Parliament now. He said that under the amendment Bill, a child’s consent for Aadhaar will be obtained after he became an adult. He said there was also a provision for an offline verification.
Premachandran said the Bill is not in conformity with the Supreme Court judgment in the K S Puttaswamy case, which “restricted the use of Aadhaar for only such schemes that have the colour of subsidy and which are paid out of the Consolidated Fund of India”.
The RSP member said the issue of the Personal Data Protection needed to come up first. “Instead of bringing Personal Data Protection Bill, you’re amending the Aadhaar Act,” he said.
Other MPs also wanted to raise objections to the introduction of the Bill, but Speaker Om Birla said they should have given a notice for it earlier. At this, a new member stood up, pointing out that he had given a notice. He was promptly backed by AIMIM member Asaduddin Owaisi and NCP member Supriya Sule, but the Speaker had in the meantime directed Prasad to respond to objections.
Prasad stated in his response that SIM cards could “be taken with or without Aadhaar”. He pointed out that over 60 crore people had taken mobile SIM cards through Aadhaar even though it was not mandatory. People of India, he said, had accepted Aadhaar.
The Bill envisages voluntary use of the Aadhaar number for authentication and as identity proof for opening of bank accounts and for procuring mobile phone connections. It also proposes deletion of section 57 of the Aadhaar Act related to the use of biometric data by private entities. This amendment will also prevent the denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to, undergo authentication. Besides this, the proposed amendments provide for the establishment of a Unique Identification Authority of India Fund.
The changes proposed also include a civil penalty of up to Rs 1 crore on entities that violate provisions of the Aadhaar Act, with an additional fine of up to Rs 10 lakh per day in case of a continuous non-compliance. Similarly, the Bill proposes that unauthorised use of identity information by a requesting entity or offline verification seeking entity would be punishable with imprisonment of up to three years with a fine that may extend to Rs 10,000 or up to Rs 1 lakh in case of a company.