Cabinet nod to amend Aadhaar laws for its voluntary sharing

New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Monday gave its approval to amend two existing Aadhaar laws giving preference to the people to voluntarily share the biometric identity card while obtaining new mobile phone connections and opening of bank accounts, sources said.

The Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved amendments which will be carried out under the Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

“The authentication through Aadhaar is permissible for mobile phone SIM cards and banking purposes. But this shall not be the only option. Apart from Aadhaar KYC, passport and any other document the government may notify can also be used,” said the source.

He said as almost 99 per cent people have been using Aadhaar, whichever entity will authenticate through the 12-digit identification number, they will have to take care of privacy and safety code as per the standard described by the government.

The government’s move comes after the Supreme Court in September imposed restrictions on the use of Aadhaar by private companies.

The Supreme Court had struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act that made seeding of the biometric ID with SIMs and bank accounts mandatory, saying it had no legal backing.

To overcome this lacuna, the Telegraph Act is being amended to provide legal backing for the issuance of mobile SIMs through Aadhaar.

Similarly, the amendment to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) will give individuals option to link their bank accounts to Aadhaar in the KYC option.

The Cabinet also took decision to give parallel platform of digital authentication which has been named as “offline verification” through which authentication can be done by using QR code.

In case of child’s Aadhaar, his or her parents consent will be necessary, as per the decision taken in the Cabinet.

“If the child would be 18-year old, he or she can choose to give Aadhaar or any other document for authentication,” the source added.

The apex court in a landmark judgment had held constitutional validity of Aadhaar for the distribution of state-sponsored welfare subsidies but ruled that it cannot be made mandatory for opening bank accounts or providing mobile-phone connections.

The ruling followed petitions by activists and lawyers citing privacy concerns.