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Now get mobile connection, open bank account without Aadhaar as Rajya Sabha passes Bill

The passage of the Bill means that people will now be able to open bank accounts and get new mobile connection without showing their Aadhaar card.

Now get mobile connection, open bank account without Aadhaar as Rajya Sabha passes Bill

Rajya Sabha on Monday passed Aadhaar and Other Laws Amendment Bill, 2019, which was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad on June 24, 2019. The new bill replaces an Ordinance promulgated on March 2, 2019.  

The passage of the Bill means that people will now be able to open bank accounts and get new mobile connection without showing their Aadhaar card. During the debate on the Bill in Rajya Sabha, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said that people like Bill Gates and Thomas Friedman are appreciating Aadhar. He assured that House that the government is not going to change the architecture of Aadhaar and is focused on only changing the concerned law.

Prasad also said that a comprehensive data protection law will be introduced by the Centre because the government considers data sovereignty an a very important thing and will ensure that it is never compromised. "We will bring a comprehensive data protection law. Data sovereignty is integral to us and it will never be compromised," Prasad said in Rajya Sabha.

Under the Aadhaar Act, the identity of an individual may be verified by Aadhaar ‘authentication’, which involves submitting the Aadhaar number, and their biometric or demographic information to the Central Identities Data Repository for verification. The Billadditionally allows ‘offline verification’ of the identity of an individual without authentication through modes specified by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) by regulations. During offline verification, the agency need to obtain the consent of the individual and also inform the individual of alternatives to sharing information.

 The Act provides for the use of Aadhaar number as proof of identity of a person, subject to authentication but the new Bill replaces this provision and allows the individual to voluntarily use his Aadhaar number to establish his identity, by authentication or offline verification. 

 The new Bill amends the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 to state that persons with a license to maintain a telegraph, banking companies and financial institutions may verify the identity of their clients by: (i) authentication or offline verification of Aadhaar, (ii) passport, or (iii) any other documents notified by the central government.  

Under the Act, restrictions on security and confidentiality of Aadhaar related information do not apply in case the disclosure is pursuant to an order of a District Court (or above) but the Bill amends this to allow such disclosure only for orders by High Courts (or above).  The Act also said that an officer not below the rank of a Joint Secretary may issue directions for disclosing information in the interest of national security but the Bill amends this to allow such disclosure on directions of officers not below the rank of a Secretary.
 
Under the Act, all fees and revenue collected by the UIDAI will be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India.  The Bill, however, removes this provision, and creates the Unique Identification Authority of India Fund.  All fees, grants, and charges received by the UIDAI shall be credited to this fund. 

Under the Act, courts can take cognizance of an offence only if complaint is registered by UIADAI but the Bill amends this to allow the individual to register complaints in certain cases, including impersonation or disclosure of their identity. The Bill defines the Aadhaar ecosystem to include enrolling agencies, requesting agencies, and offline verification-seeking entities.  
 
Under the Bill, the UIDAI may initiate a complaint against an entity in the Aadhaar ecosystem for failure to comply with the Act or the directions of UIDAI and to furnish information required by the UIDAI. Adjudicating Officers appointed by the UIDAI shall decide such matters, and may impose penalties up to one crore rupees on such entities.  The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal shall be the appellate authority against decisions of the Adjudicating Officer.