The central government introduced Aadhaar Amendment Bill 2018 to modify the existing laws with the tune of the Judgment of the Supreme Court in Puttaswamy’s case. The Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court in 4:1 majority upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar act with certain restrictions and changes. The Compulsory use of Aadhaar based on the KYC use for the mobile connections and bank accounts were prohibited by the Supreme Court. The amended bill permits the enrolment of the children to the scheme with the consent of their parents and guardians. It also contains the provision enabling the children to seek the cancellation of their Aadhaar number on attaining the majority. The bill further clarifies that no child should be denied any benefit or subsidy for want of Aadhaar.
Bank accounts and Aadhaar
The bill proposes amendment to permit the voluntary use of Aadhaar Number for identity verification by banks before opening the bank accounts. The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which brought the mandating the link of bank accounts with Aadhaar was also struck down by the Supreme Court in Puttaswamy’s case.
Telecom Service Provider and Aadhaar
The bill proposes to amend Indian Telegraph Act 1885, to provide for the voluntary use of Aadhaar for the identity verification. The telecom companies which are authorised to use Aadhaar number for the identity verification, but however the amended bill does not say that the Aadhaar has to be compulsorily be used for the verification. The circular that was issued by the Department of Telecommunications on dated 23rd March 2017 mandating the compulsory linkage of mobile numbers with the Aadhaar Number was struck down by the Supreme Court on the ground that the circular had no statutory backing.
Salient Features of the Amended Bill
- Offline verification: The bill provides and permits the offline verification of Aadhaar number for the identification purposes. Offline verification means use of Aadhaar number to establish the identity without the authentication using the biometric data or the other electronic means.
- Virtual ID: The amended bill has changed the definition of Aadhaar number and now the definition includes the ‘Virtual ID’ in addition to the 12 digit number. This ID enables to authenticate the identity without providing the Aadhaar number.
- High Court Judge can order for disclosure: The amended bill has changed the authority, who can issue orders to disclose Aadhaar information from ‘District Judge’ to a “High Court Judge”.
- Right of hearing: The bill states that the holder f the Aadhaar number should be provided with fair hearing before issuing the order of the disclosure. The Supreme Court read down the Section 33(1) to include right of hearing for the Aadhaar number holder.
- No – Denial of services due to the authentication failure: The proposed bill clarifies that any failure of the authentication of the Aadhaar Number due to old age, sickness or by any technical reason should not result in the denial of the services or any benefit to the person.
- Civil Penalties: The proposed amended bill introduces a new chapter which specifies for the civil penalties for the collection, use and disclosure of the Aadhaar information in contravention with the provision of the act. The maximum penalty proposed is 1 crore.
- Cognizance: Section 47 of the proposed bill enables the court to take cognizance on the complaint made by the holder of the Aadhaar number or who is the victim of the offences committed under the act.
- Appellate authorities: The Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Authority has made the appellate authority for considering the challenge against the imposition of the civil penalties. An appeal provision to the Supreme Court is contained in the Bill, against the orders of the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Authority.
- Section 57 Omitted: Section 57 of the Act permitted private entities to use Aadhaar number for authenticating identity before the disbursement of services. The provision was struck down by the Supreme Court and the further the amended bill omitted the Section 57.
- Secretary authorised to order for the disclosure: Earlier the authority competent to issue orders of disclosure of the Aadhaar information in the interest of the national security was the Joint Secretary which has been changed as “Secretary” in the proposed bill under Section 33(2).