On Monday, the Cabinet pushed two law amendments that provide legal backing to seed the 12-digit biometric Aadhaar number with banks accounts and mobiles SIM cards on voluntary basis.
Moving forward towards implementing the Supreme Court’s ban on Section 57 which lets private entities like banks and telecom operators to make use of Aadhaar biometric card, the Union Cabinet headed by PM Modi approved two existing laws. The updated amendments provide legal backing to the seeding of Aadhaar card with banks, SIM cards, school admissions and other services on voluntary basis. This will allow every citizen of India to deny sharing their biometric details to avail privately powered services like opening a bank account or getting a new cell-phone connection – which was earlier mandatory.
However, the amendments also provide legal backing to seeding Aadhaar numbers with banks and mobile connections if the holder decides to do so. This means, the 12-digit biometric identity will be a valid identity to avail these two services (banks, SIM), but it is no longer the only form of authentication. In a way, the updated amendments under the Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) lifts the Supreme Court’s ban on usage of Aadhaar for any private entities that was implemented in September this year.
The law might also amend provisions to protect personal data of users and ensure that the privacy is maintained even while sharing the biometric number with privately owned entities. On the other hand, the amendment will turn the main Aadhaar authority UIDAI into an independent body which has no powers to penalise those demand Aadhaar details without approval. The passage of these updates in existing Acts is the first legal step taken by the government towards the Aadhaar issue, and it is likely to be passed in the Parliament during this winter session to be enacted as a law.