The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016
The Aadhaar Act aims to provide “efficient and transparent” delivery of subsidies, benefits and services to Indian residents by assigning them unique identity numbers. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), set up under this Act, is responsible for helping people ‘enrol’ or sign up for Aadhaar numbers, verifying their identity information, issuing Aadhaar numbers, and authenticating information provided by individuals on the request of public or private entities.
The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on March 3, 2016, and it became an Act on March 26, 2016. An earlier version, the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 3, 2010, but withdrawn in March 2016. The UIDAI became a statutory authority after the Aadhaar Act was passed, but it had been functioning as an office attached to the Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog) since 2009. Around 30 petitions challenging the government on different aspects of the Aadhaar Act have reportedly been submitted to the Supreme Court, and the matter will come up for hearing later this year.
Every Indian resident is entitled to get an Aadhaar number provided that he/she has stayed in India for 182 days in the year preceding the date of his/her Aadhaar application.
To apply for an Aadhaar number, an individual must submit his/her demographic information (name, date of birth, address) and biometric information (photograph, finger print, iris scan) to an enrolment agency authorised by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
At the time of enrolling for an Aadhaar number, the individual should be informed of (i) the manner in which the information will be used, (ii) the nature of the recipients of the information, and (iii) the right to access this information. After their information is verified, the person will be issued an Aadhaar number.
An Aadhaar number, in physical or electronic form, may be accepted as proof of the identity of an individual for any purpose, by any public or private entity. The Aadhaar number is not, by itself, proof of an individual’s citizenship or domicile in India.
The Act says that the UIDAI will take special measures to issue Aadhaar numbers to women, children, senior citizens, persons with disability, unskilled and unorganised workers, nomadic tribes or persons who don’t have a permanent home.
To receive subsidies, benefits or services, an individual’s identity will have to be verified and he/she may have to present an Aadhaar number. If the person doesn’t have a number, he/she will be provided with an alternative means of identifying himself/herself. But such an individual will be required by the government to apply for an Aadhaar number.
The UIDAI’s tasks include establishing and operating a Central Identities Data Repository; specifying security protocols and technological safeguards for the information collected; setting up a grievance redress mechanism for individuals and enrolment agencies.
An entity (that is, a person or an agency) may request the UIDAI to authenticate an individual’s Aadhaar number, and his/her demographic and biometric information. The ‘requesting entity’ must take the individual’s consent before collecting the information, and use it only for authentication. The UIDAI must respond to an authentication query with a positive, negative or other appropriate response, but must not share any of the individual’s ‘core biometric details’ with the requesting entity.
An individual’s core biometric information will not be used for any purpose other than getting an Aadhaar card and authenticating his/her identity. Such information and his/her Aadhaar number will not be published or displayed publicly.
In the interest of national security, this information may be disclosed under the direction of the Joint Secretary of the central government. An Oversight Committee, consisting of the Cabinet Secretary, and the Secretaries of Legal Affairs and Electronics and Information Technology, will review this decision and it will be valid for six months.
If anyone discloses, transmits, copies or disseminates a person’s Aadhaar number and related identity information, he/she will be imprisoned for up to three years and fined up to Rs. 1 lakh. For unauthorised access to UIDAI’s central database, the punishment is three years of imprisonment and a fine of at least Rs. 10 lakh. These offences can be heard in a court of law only if the complaint is made by the UIDAI.
Focus and Factoids by Subuhi Jiwani.
Ministry of Law and Justice
Government of India, New Delhi
26 Mar, 2016