India’s Supreme Court has issued its long-awaited decision on the use of Aadhaar – India’s voluntary registration and identification system – by private companies. The Economic Times reports that the apex court struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, which had allowed private companies to ask for Aadhaar details for identification. As a result, wireless customers can no longer be asked to provide Aadhaar details for SIM registration and verification. Further, the ruling ostensibly ends the SIM re-verification drive kicked off by an earlier Supreme Court decision last year.
As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, a February 2017 decision from the Supreme Court mandated the use of biometric verification via Aadhaar for SIM registration within a year, with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) then instructing cellcos to use the system to re-verify their existing subscribers. Following a push back from consumer rights activists, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the complaints against the system and in December 2017 the deadline for Aadhaar re-verification was delayed until 31 March 2018, before being postponed indefinitely.
In another regulator development, meanwhile, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has published a draft amendment to the Telecommunication Mobile Number Portability (MNP) Regulations 2009 with the aim of making the system more accessible and consumer-friendly. Amongst the changes were: a streamlined process for the consumer to message their provider for a porting code; a reduction in the processing time to 48-hours; imposition of a fine of INR5,000 (USD68.7) for every incidence of non-compliance with the regulations; and a INR10,000 charge for each wrongful rejection of a porting request.