New Delhi: In a move aimed at providing legal backing to a Cabinet decision allowing voluntary linkage of Aadhaar with mobile phone numbers and bank accounts, the government on Wednesday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to amend three laws. The bill to amend the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 is crucial.

The government is trying to create the ground for allowing Aadhaar usage by private entities despite a Supreme Court ruling in September that Aadhaar can only be used for welfare schemes and for delivering state subsidies. It had barred private companies from using Aadhaar data for authenticating customers.

The court sought to address privacy concerns and said it was not mandatory to link Aadhaar with bank accounts or mobile phone numbers.

The draft Aadhaar amendment bill puts the onus on offline verification of Aadhaar number holders where the individual will be verified through QR codes without submission of biometric or demographic information to data servers of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). “Offline verification means the process of verifying the identity of the Aadhaar number holder without authentication through such offline modes as may be specified by regulation," according to the amendment bill.

“Let me clarify at the outset that the proposed amendment is done in compliance with the Supreme Court judgement. It (linking) is not mandatory at all," IT and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday in response to concerns raised by the opposition.

Privacy is “not being invaded at all" by these amendments, the minister said. The government has prepared a data protection bill that will be introduced in Parliament soon, he said.

Objections were raised by Shashi Tharoor (Congress), Saugata Roy (Trinamool Congress) and N.K. Premachandran (RSP). Roy said the proposed amendments infringe the Supreme Court judgement.

“The bill is premature because first we need enactment of data protection law," Tharoor said, asking “where is the draft" of the data protection law. “The bill must be withdrawn and revised," he said.

The government is yet to introduce the draft personal data protection bill in the Parliament. On 30 November, Prasad had said the government is looking at the “widest consultation and feedback" on the draft bill.

With exchanges heating up on the bill, the Lok Sabha speaker adjourned the House till 2pm.

On 17 December, the Union cabinet gave its go-ahead to amending existing laws to give legal backing to the voluntary use of Aadhaar.

PTI contributed to this story.

Close