Centre approves of making Aadhaar voluntary for banking and phones

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The Union Cabinet has signed off the necessary amendments to at least three laws namely the Telegraph Act, Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and the Aadhaar Act to allow the voluntary use of Aadhaar.

The draft bill is likely to be introduced in Lok Sabha during the ongoing winter session of Parliament. The bill will allow the use of Aadhaar Number for obtaining mobile numbers or opening bank accounts only if the customer opts for it.

The amendments are in compliance with both the verdicts of the Supreme Court — August verdict on Privacy and September verdict on Aadhaar.

The move is likely to strengthen the privacy ecosystem as it declares any attempt to hack into the Aadhaar database as an offense punishable for 10 years in jail.

The September 26 judgment by the apex court preserved the usage of Aadhaar for availing subsidies sponsored by the government but it shrugged off the mandatory linkage of Aadhaar with bank accounts or telephone connections.

Also according to the new rule, minors will have an option to withdraw from the biometric system of Aadhaar on attaining 18 years of age. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) will then have to delete all the information of the person from its database.

A senior executive from a major mobile network operator said, “Aadhaar was never mandatory for us. After the SC verdict, we started with the earlier method of registering customers using the forms. And now, we use the QR code generated on authenticated applications (APPs) hosted on our sites.”

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