The Aadhar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019

The Aadhar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019, (“Bill”) was introduced in the Lok Sabha on the 24th of June, 2019 by Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology. This replaces an Ordinance which was issued on March 2, 2019. The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha by a voice note on July 8, 2019.

Main features of the bill:

1. The Bill amends the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 and the Telegraph Act, 1885. It now authorises people with a license to maintain telegraph, financial institutions, banking companies to verify the identity of all their clients by (i) passport (ii) authentication or by offline verification of the Aadhaar (iii) any other documents which might be notified by the Central government. However, the use of the above modes of verification must be a voluntary choice of the person who is to be identified. Also, no individual can be denied service for not having an Aadhar number.

2. The Aadhar Act provided that a person’s identity can be verified by Aadhar authentication. This includes submitting the Aadhar number, demographic and biometric information to the Central Identities Data Repository for verification. One of the major features of the Bill is that it now introduces “offline verification” of any individual’s identity. This would be done by the modes specified by the Unique Identification Authority of India (“UIDAI”) by it’s regulations.

For this process, the agent/the offline verification seeking entity must obtain the consent of the individual, ensure that the demographic information being collected is not used for any other purpose and inform the individual of the alternatives to submission of the information being requested.

3. The Bill replaces the previous provision in the Aadhar Act (“Act”) which provides for the use of Aadhar number as a proof of identity of an individual, subject to authentication. The Bill now provides that an individual may voluntarily use his Aadhar number to establish his identity, either by offline verification or authentication. The Bill also empowers the Parliament to make mandatory the Aadhar authentication of the individual’s identity.

4. The Bill specifies that at the time of enrolling any child for obtaining an Aadhar number, the enrolling agency shall seek the consent of the parent or his/her guardian and inform about the manner in which the information will be used. After the child attains 18 years of age, he/she can apply for a cancellation of the Aadhar.

5. The Bill creates a fund called the Unique Identification Authority of India Fund. All the fees, grants, charges received by the Authority under this Act will be credited to this fund. The fund shall be used for the purpose of the salaries and allowances payable to the employees of UIDAI.

6. The Bill provides for a provision which empowers the UIDAI to initiate a complaint against an entity in the Aadhar ecosystem for the following reasons: (i) failure to comply with the Act or any of the UIDAI’s directions given (ii) failure to furnish any information which was required and requested for by the UIDAI. Adjudicating Officers appointed by the UIDAI will be responsible for taking a decision on such matters, and may impose penalties of upto one crore rupees. The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal will be the appellate authority against such decisions of the Adjudicating Officer.

7. The Bill has defined the Aadhar ecosystem specifying that it includes enrolling agencies, Registrars, offline verification seeking entities, requesting entities and any other entity or group of entities as may be specified by regulations. The UIDAI or any other Authority under this Act may issue directions to any entity in the Aadhar ecosystem.

8. The Bill provides that disclosure of any Aadhar related information is to be pursuant to an order of the High Court (or a Court above). It also permits disclosure in pursuance of a direction of an officer that is not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India.

This article is authored by Drishti Vanvari, student of Bachelor of Legal Science & Bachelor of Law (B.L.S. LL.B) at Government Law College, Mumbai.

Also Read – The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019

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