The government is in the last stages of finalising a proposal to amend the Aadhaar Act to give all the citizens an option to withdraw their Aadhaar number, including biometrics and the data. This follows the Supreme Court judgment in September that upheld the validity of Aadhaar, however, with certain riders.
Over 37.50 crore PANs have been issued till March 12, 2018. Of these, the number of PANs issued to individuals stood at more than 36.54 crores, of which about 16.84 crore PANs have been linked with Aadhaar. In line with the court order, the proposal seeks to appoint an adjudicating officer to decide whether a person’s Aadhaar-related data need to be disclosed in the interest of national security.
Congress corporator and Opposition leader in the BMC Ravi Raja stated, “The decision to give the citizens the option to withdraw their Aadhaar number is based on the decision given by the Supreme Court. However, I think that securing the data privacy is the duty of the government and the Supreme Court’s decision must be followed.”
The court had struck down Section 33(2), which allowed the disclosure of Aadhaar information for national security reasons on the orders of an officer not below Joint Secretary. It had said an officer above Joint Secretary should consult a judicial officer and together take a call. Meanwhile, the government is finalising a proposal to amend the Act, following the Supreme Court’s order of upholding it but with conditions.
BJP leader and spokesperson Suresh Nakhua said, “It is in accordance with the order by the honourable Supreme Court and also a bill for Data Security is coming very soon. Citizens who have their PAN Card linked with the Aadhaar Card, their data are secured and with the Data Security Bill coming in, the security will strengthen.”
A Constitution Bench had struck down Section 57 of the Act that allows private entities to use the unique number for verification. The Bench also declared that seeking to link it with bank accounts and SIM cards was unconstitutional. Besides, a part of the Aadhaar Act that allows the storage of Authentication records for up to five years was also observed unconstitutional and the court allowed the records to be stored for a period of six months.
“The initial proposal was prepared by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). It submitted that once a child turns 18, he/she will be given six months to decide if he/she wants to withdraw,” a senior official said.
This proposal was sent to the Law Ministry to be vetted. “The Ministry further recommended that the option to withdraw be made available to all citizens, and not be limited to a particular group,” the official added.
However, the proposal, which will now be sent to the Cabinet, is likely to benefit only those who do not have a PAN card or do not require one and the PAN cardholders still need to link their PAN with Aadhaar as mandated by the Supreme Court in September.
Professor (Economics) by profession Shantanu Basu shared his thoughts with AV. He said, “Security of data has always been a problem. If decoded, the code in the Aadhaar Card will give out a plethora of information about the person; so people whose PAN details would remain connected to Aadhaar henceforth, remains vulnerable to the fact that the information might be leaked. They stand the risk of being cheated otherwise.”
He further added, “If the government is planning to bring the Data Security Bill, unless and until we know the content of the same, there is no reason to believe that my data will be secured just because they have used the words ‘Data Security’!”