- The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was introduced by the Minister of Law and Justice, and Electronics and Information Technology.
- The Bill amends the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
- The Aadhaar Act provides targeted delivery of subsidies and benefits to individuals residing in India by assigning them unique identity numbers, called Aadhaar numbers.
Features of the Bill
- Offline verification: Offline verification means use of Aadhaar number to establish identity without authentication using biometric data or other electronic means. The Bill permits offline verification of Aadhaar number for identification purposes. As per the present Act, Aadhaar number without electronic authentication cannot be used to verify identity.
- Virtual ID : The Bill changes definition of ‘aadhaar number’ to include ‘virtual ID’, in addition to the 12 digit number. The Virtual ID enables one to authenticate identity without providing aadhaar number.
- High Court judge can order disclosure : The authority who can issue orders to disclose Aadhaar information is proposed to be changed as ‘High Court judge’ from ‘District Judge’ as per Section 33(1).
- Right of hearing before disclosure order : The Bill states that the holder of the Aadhar number should be heard before issuing such order. The SC had read down Section 33(1) to include right of hearing for the Aadhaar number-holder.
- Secretary authorised to order disclosure in the interest of national security: The authority competent to issue orders of disclosure of Aadhaar information in the interests of national security is proposed to be changed as “Secretary” from “Joint Secretary” as per Section 33(2). The SC had held that an officer above the rank of Joint Secretary should be taking such decisions.
- No denial of services due to authentication failure: The Bill clarifies that failure in authentication of Aadhaar number due to old-age, sickness, or technical reasons should not result in denial of any service, benefit or subsidy. It states that alternate means to verify identity should be used in such cases.
- Civil penalties: The Bill proposes a new chapter specifying civil penalties for collection, use and disclosure of Aadhaar information in contravention with the violation of the provisions of the Act. The maximum penalty proposed is Rs. one crore.
- TDSAT & SC as appellate authorities: The TDSAT is made the appellate authority for considering challenge against imposition of civil penalties. An appeal provision to the Supreme Court is contained in the Bill, against the orders of TDSAT.
- Congnizance can be taken on complaint of holder of Aadhaar number : Section 47 is sought to be amended to enable the Court to take cognizance on the complaint made by the holder of Aadhaar number, who is the victim of offences committed under the Act. As per the existing Act, cognizance can be taken only on a complaint by UIDAI.
- Omission of Section 57 : Section 57 of the Act permitted private entities to use Aadhaar number for authenticating identity before disbursement of services. The provision was struck down by the Supreme Court. The Bill proposes to omit the Section.
What is Aadhaar ?
- The Aadhaar project was initiated in 2009 to address these problems. It was envisaged as a biometric-based unique identity number that could help identify eligible persons. It was thought to be a more reliable identity proof, because it sought to authenticate a person’s identity based on their unique biometrics, like fingerprints and iris scans.
- In 2016, Parliament enacted the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 to provide legislative backing to the project. This Act allowed Aadhaar to be used for authentication purposes by the central and state government, as well as by private bodies and persons.
- Under its provisions, government has been issuing various notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for government projects, such as LPG subsidies and Mid-Day Meal scheme. In addition, in 2017, Parliament passed the Finance Act to amend the Income Tax Act, 1961, and made Aadhaar mandatory for filing of income tax returns, and applying for PAN.
What is the information collected under Aadhaar?
- To obtain an Aadhaar number, a person is required to submit their: (i) biometric information (photograph, 10 fingerprints, scans of both irises), and (ii) demographic information (name, date of birth, gender, residential address) to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
- The Aadhaar number, the demographic and biometric information (called identity information) is together stored in the Central Identities Data Repository. In addition, every time a person’s identity is authenticated using Aadhaar, information related to the authentication request is recorded as well.
Why is it important to have Aadhaar?
Aadhaar program was launched with a main objective to provide universal identity to every Indian resident. People can now get the card with much ease as its acceptance as a mandatory document for various initiatives has been officially made. In addition to this it will help in reducing the corruption since every individual carries only one unique number.
Considering the increasing acceptance of Aadhaar card it is must for everyone to get it issued. It is believed that the card will further be given more importance as more and more government schemes are being launched requiring it as a mandatory document.
Most important benefits of Aadhaar
Listed below are the most important benefits of Aadhaar (12 digit unique identity number).
- Aadhaar based Direct Benefit Transfer (LPG Subsidy) : The 12 digit individual identification number on Aadhar card is used to get LPG subsidy amount directly in the bank account. This DBTL scheme is named as PAHAL. To get this benefit you need to visit your area’s distributor and get Aadhar number linked to the 17 digit LPG consumer number. Although now you can get direct benefit transfer by linking bank account to the LPG number.
- Jan Dhan Yojana : Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) accepts Aadhaar card/number as the only document sufficient to open the bank account. Although you can open PMJDY account after producing other documents as well. The benefits offered are RuPay card, free zero balance savings account, life and accident insurance and many others.
- Passport in 10 days : This benefit of Aadhaar card will relieve you the most! If you have an Aadhaar card, you can get passport in just 10 days. Under this format, police verification will be done at a later date as opposed to the previous rule requiring police verification which used to be time consuming. Also under the new government’s rule, if you need a passport, Aadhaar number is compulsory.
- Digital Locker : Government of India has launched digital locker (DigiLocker) system for everyone for storing all personal document on the government’s server. And sign-up process for DigiLocker requires person to link his/her 12 digit Aadhaar card number.
- Voter Card Linking : Starting 9th March 2015, Aadhaar number has been linked to the voter ID’s. This action is taken to eliminate bogus voters. Once an Aadhaar number is linked, it would become impossible for a voter to have multiple voter ID cards. It’s illegal use is also curbed, as registration requires voter ID card holder to be physically present and produce Aadhaar card to the polling booth officer for linking.
- Monthly Pension : All the pensioners from select states will now have to register their Aadhaar card number to their respective department in order to receive monthly pension. This move was initiated to avoid fraudulent incidents of fake beneficiaries.
- Provident Fund : Similar to pension, Employee Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) has also rolled out Aadhaar Based Online Claim Submission for PF account holders.
- Opening new bank account : Aadhaar letter provided by UIDAI is now acceptable by banks as a valid proof to open bank account. In fact, it can serve both as an address and identity proof, hence avoiding the need to produce bunch of documents to the banks for opening an account.
- Digital Life Certificate : Aadhaar linked digital life certificate is another initiative which was launched by Ministry of Electronics and IT. Named as “Jeevan Praman for Pensioners”, this system will end the process where pensioner had to be physically present at Pension Disbursing Agency to renew his / her life certificate. Instead all the details of pensioner will be accessed digitally by the agency.
- SEBI : It is now accepted as a proof of address and identity by Securities and Exchange Board of India for investing in stock market.
- Mobile number : All existing mobile subscribers (prepaid and postpaid) are required to link Aadhaar to their mobile number. All new connections will require Aadhaar linking.
- Driving license : To make Aadhaar, a digital identity, very soon driving license is planned to be linked to Aadhaar number. The objective of doing this is to check prevalence of multiple license.
- PAN card and IT return: This is considered to be the best step to curb black money. Linking of PAN card with Aadhaar has been made mandatory. The last date for linking is 30.09.2019.
- Investments : Submitting Aadhaar to financial institutions is mandatory where you are doing mutual fund and other investments.
- Existing bank account holders : Account holders are to provide Aadhaar to the banks where they hold account six months from the date of commencement of bank account.
- Book Upto 12 tickets in IRCTC website in a month by linking Aadhaar : Now users are allowed to book upto 12 tickets in a month, if users get themselves verified through their Aadhaar number along with at least one passenger also being verified through Aadhaar. However, No Aadhaar Verification required for booking up to 6 tickets in a month.