ACTING ON the Supreme Court’s verdict, which struck down the requirement of linking Aadhaar to mobile phone numbers, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has given major telecom operators a fortnight to come up a plan to stop using the 12-digit ID for authentication.
In a letter sent to seven major telecom operators Monday, the parent body of Aadhaar also asked them to take “immediate cognisance” of requests to delink Aadhaar from mobile numbers “as and when such requests are received from its subscribers”.
In such cases, it said, telecom operators will have to conduct a fresh Know Your Customer (KYC) exercise using one of the ID proofs approved by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). The new KYC process will have to be completed within six months of delinking Aadhaar to avoid deactivation of mobile numbers.
All telecom service providers, UIDAI said, “shall immediately notify their customers the facility of delinking their Aadhaar number” and the Unique ID token — a service launched by UIDAI this year — from “their database and establish a system to accept and process such requests for delinking”.
The operators, it said, “are hereby directed to submit” by October 15, “an action plan/exit plan to the Authority for closure of use of Aadhaar based authentication systems which shall include without limitation”. If it does not receive the action plan by the deadline, UIDAI said, “the authentication services shall be terminated without any further notice”.
The letter has been marked to Aruna Sundarajan, Secretary, DoT, and heads of Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea, BSNL, MTNL, Tata Teleservices and Atria Convergence.
Rajan Mathews, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), said in a statement that “operators will need to coordinate with the DoT to obtain clarity on the way forward” as DoT and the Ministry of Home Affairs are “finally responsible… for the Customer Acquisition Form requirements”. COAI is an industry body that represents Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio.
In its letter, the UIDAI quoted from the Supreme Court’s Aadhaar verdict of September 26 to state that telecom service providers cannot use Aadhaar for issuance of new SIM cards or for reverification of existing cards, as the DoT had ordered through a circular on March 23, 2017.
In that circular, the DoT had asked all telecom service providers to reverify their customers using Aadhaar-based electronic-KYC. The circular was challenged in the Supreme Court, which stated that it lacks the “backing of a law” and failed to meet the “requirement of proportionality as well”.
While upholding the Constitutional validity of Aadhaar, the Supreme Court said that the DoT order “does not meet ‘necessity stage’ and ‘balancing stage’ tests to check the primary menace which is in the mind” of government authorities. There can be “other appropriate laws and less intrusive alternatives,” it said.
“For the misuse of such SIM cards by a handful of persons, the entire population cannot be subjected to intrusion into their private lives. It also impinges upon the voluntary nature of the Aadhaar scheme,” the majority verdict said.
Apart from striking down this circular, the SC had also read down Section 57 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, barring any corporate entity from asking for Aadhaar.