The Aadhaar card and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has been passed by the Parliament. Several provisions of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 have been changed in this Bill. Along with this, the controversial section 57 of this Act has also been proposed to be abolished in this bill. The decision made by the Supreme Court on the basis of the previous year and Justice BN constituted on data protection. Based on the recommendations of the Srikrishna Committee, this bill has been introduced. This bill will replace the Aadhaar and other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, after it is passed. The following important provisions have been made in this bill.
What amendments have been made?
- Aadhaar can be used to authenticate the identity of any person under the Aadhaar Act. In this bill, a provision of offline verification has also been made to authenticate the identity of the person. Before offline verification, companies or agencies will be required to obtain the permission of the person concerned, as well as the agencies will neither store the data related to Aadhaar nor be able to use and store it.
- According to this bill, a person can use Aadhaar card as an identity card. The Bill provides that the authentication of identity through Aadhaar for a service can only be made mandatory by the law of Parliament.
- The Bill provides for the voluntary use of Aadhaar for KYC (Know Your Customer) under the Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Banking companies and financial institutions can use various documents, including Aadhaar, notified by the central government, to authenticate their consumer identity. Consumers can prove their identity through any one of the above documents. Companies cannot refuse any service on the basis that the Aadhaar card is not available with the consumer. Thus, the Bill proposes to abolish Section 57 of the earlier Act.
- Earlier in the Act, any such institution or company which was established under any law was allowed to authenticate the identity of a person through Aadhaar number. But now certification can be allowed through Aadhaar card for an entity whose privacy and security standards are appropriate, as well as that unit established by law.
- It is specified in the bill that before obtaining the Aadhaar number of the child, permission of his parents or guardian will be required. In addition to this, the guardian will also have to tell about the type of information that will be collected by the concerned institution and by whom such information can be used. After the child attains adulthood (18 years), he can apply for cancellation of Aadhaar.
- In some cases, information related to Aadhaar can be disclosed. In such cases the restrictions of the Aadhaar Act on security and privacy will not apply. But this disclosure can be made only by order of High Court or Supreme Court. In case of national security, such disclosure can be made with the permission of the Secretary level officer. Earlier, this power was available to the officers of the District Court and Joint Secretary level or above.
- An Unique Identification Authority of India Fund will be set up under this bill. All fees, grants etc. received by UIDAI will be deposited in this fund. This fund will be used for the expansion of UIDAI including salary, allowances of the employees concerned.
- The bill allows a person to file a complaint in some cases, including impersonation or disclosure of their identity.
- The main objective of this amendment is to impose strict penalties for violation of the prescribed norms for the use of Aadhaar. Under the amendment, firms violating Aadhaar rules have a fine of Rs 1 crore and a provision for jail.
- The bill will help UIDAI to set up strong mechanisms to prevent Aadhaar misuse and provide Aadhaar services in the interest of citizens.
- Section 57 of the Act empowered private companies to be denied service on the basis of non-availability of Aadhaar. This bill provides for the abolition of this section, it will help the citizens to protect their privacy and right to privacy. Also, the requirement of Aadhaar for authenticity of identity can be decided only by the law of Parliament.
- A nationwide digital identity limited to only impersonation, authentication, KYC and certain services can be considered narrow. Aadhaar format does not envisage its use for online social, financial and property registration, electronic health records etc. As a result, there is a lack of necessary soundness and privacy safeguards to support such use.
- This format also does not test secure protocols such as facilities for welfare, education and healthcare, mathematical analysis, epidemiological studies, analytics for targeting tax compliance, etc. which is also confirmed by the latest Economic Survey. The commercial use of the Aadhaar-linked data proposed in the latest Economic Survey itself gives rise to another serious legal and technical question. It is clear that there are many aspects of Aadhaar’s technical format and its usage scenario that need to be seriously considered.
- Biometrics is no secret information, Aadhaar is also vulnerable to illegal use of biometrics, identity theft and other cases of fraud.
- Further, Aadhaar does not record the purpose of authentication. Authentication without authorization and accounting poses a serious risk of fraud to users as authentication or KYC can be used for any one purpose and for other purposes as well. Hence it is necessary to record the purpose of authentication.
It has been more than a decade since Adhaar was launched in India. Aadhaar has played a useful role in the transfer of various services between government and people in India. This has brought efficiency in the government budget, as well as ensuring access to services to the target person. It is important to note that Aadhaar contains highly private and confidential information related to a particular person, if they are disclosed or misused, it can have serious consequences. In the context of the above idea, there has been debate in India about Aadhaar and efforts have been made from time to time to make Aadhaar more secure. The government legalized the Aadhaar Act in the year 2016 but the disputes related to it could not be ended. In this perspective, in the year 2018, the Supreme Court upheld its constitutional validity, but also directed the government to make some changes. The Aadhar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has been passed with similar instructions, right to privacy and necessary provisions for the national interest. It includes various important provisions but there are still some issues that need to be addressed. These issues are mainly related to cyber security and the right to privacy. Those that can be solved by developing the infrastructure, along with the rapidly changing technology has also posed a challenge, which is possible only through various changes from time to time.
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