The Indian government has introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament) that would allow individuals to use the Aadhaar biometric identification system as a means of verifying their identity for certain services, including purchasing a SIM card. The Economic Times writes that the ‘Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018’ put forward by IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad would amend three existing laws to allow for the voluntary use of the Aadhaar system for certain services. The legislation would update the guidelines for Aadhaar use and provide clarity after a Supreme Court decision in September last year left the system in disarray.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the nation’s cellcos were caught up in a policy U-turn by the apex court, which had ordered the mandatory re-verification of subscriber lines via the new Aadhaar system in February 2017 but reversed the decision in September 2018 following a series of legal challenges to the scheme. The September ruling removed a section of the Aadhaar Act that had allowed private companies to ask for Aadhaar details for identification, preventing cellcos from using the system at all, and forcing them to fall back on alternative means of verifying a customer’s identity.
The proposed amendment, meanwhile, sets out a framework that would give customers the option to use Aadhaar to sign up for certain services if they wish. In addition, the bill establishes measures to protect individuals’ data – one of the primary concerns that had led to the Supreme Court’s policy reversal. Under the proposed guidelines, providers would be required to inform potential customers of other available means of ID verification and would be barred from denying a would-be user service for refusing to use authentication via Aadhaar. Verification via Aadhaar would only be permitted for companies that are compliant with the ministry’s standards for privacy and security. Further, strict penalties were outlined for those that violate the act, including prison terms for misuse of customer data.