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The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019

The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Tag:GS2 || Governance and social justice || Introduction || Public policy

Why in news ?

  • In a major move aimed at making Aadhaar people friendly, the Parliament has approved “The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019” to replace the earlier ordinance.

Background :

  • The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (the Aadhaar Act) was enacted to provide for good governance, efficient, transparent, and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services, the expenditure for which is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India, to individuals residing in India through assigning of unique identity numbers to such individuals and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • The Supreme Court in its judgement had held Aadhaar to be constitutionally valid. However, it read down/struck down few sections of the Aadhaar Act and Regulations and gave several other directions in the interest of protecting the fundamental rights to privacy.
  • Consequently it was proposed to amend the Aadhaar Act, Indian Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in line with the Supreme Court directives and the report of Justice B.N.Srikrishna (Retd.) committee on data protection, in order to ensure that personal data of Aadhaar holder remains protected against any misuse and Aadhaar scheme remains in conformity with the Constitution.

The salient features of the amendments are as follows:

  • Provides for voluntary use of Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form by authentication or offline verification with the consent of Aadhaar number holder.
  • Provides for use of twelve-digit Aadhaar number and its alternative virtual identity to conceal the actual Aadhaar number of an individual.
  • Gives an option to children who are Aadhaar number holders to cancel their Aadhaar number on attaining the age of eighteen years.
  • Permits the entities to perform authentication only when they are compliant with the standards of privacy and security specified by the Authority; The authentication is permitted under any law made by Parliament or is prescribed to be in the interest of State by the Central Government.
  • Allows the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on voluntary basis as acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002.
  • Prevents denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to, undergo authentication.
  • Provides for establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund.
  • Provides for civil penalties, its adjudication, appeal thereof in regard to violations of Aadhaar Act and provisions by entities in the Aadhaar ecosystem.
  • The Bill allows disclosure of Aadhar details only for orders by High Courts (or above).
  • The Bill allows disclosure of Aadhar details (national security) on directions of officers not below the rank of a Secretary.

Conclusion :

  • It is certain that government is aware of concerns of the Apex Court from the Aadhaar judgment.
  • It has taken proper consideration of observations of the Court relevant to the Stricter Punishments, UIDAI authority, Aadhaar Eco-System and Offline modes of Verification.
  • But there are multiple provisions which indicate that government is adamant to make Aadhaar infrastructure accessible to private entities.
  • Further the government must also bring data protection legislation.