The President has promulgated Aadhaar and other laws(Amendment) Ordinance 2019 to make amendments to the Aadhaar Act 2016, Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2005 & Indian Telegraph Act 1885. The amendments proposed are the same as those contained in the Bill passed by the Lok Sabha on 4th January 2019.
The Constitution Bench of the SC in the judgment delivered on September 26 had upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act by 4:1 majority, with certain restrictions and changes. The compulsory use of Aadhaar based KYC for mobile connections and bank accounts was prohibited by the SC.
Consequently it was proposed to amend the Aadhaar Act, Indian Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in line with the Supreme Court directives and the report of Justice B.N.Srikrishna (Retd.) committee on data protection, in order to ensure that personal data of Aadhaar holder remains protected against any misuse and Aadhaar scheme remains in conformity with the Constitution. Towards this, the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed by the Lok Sabha in its sitting held on 4th January, 2019. However, the Bill lapsed as it could no be passed in the Rajya Sabha before was adjourned sine die after the budget session.
The Ordinance amends the Aadhaar Act 2016 to permit the enrolment of children to the scheme with the consent of their parents or guardian. It also contains a provision enabling the children to seek cancellation of their Aadhaar number on attaining majority. The SC judgment had directed the Government to bring in these modifications. The Ordinance also clarifies that no child should be denied any benefit or subsidy for want of Aadhaar.
It also provides for voluntary use of Aadhaar for taking mobile connections and opening bank accounts.
Other salient features of the Ordinance are :
Use of Aadhaar by telecom service providers
The Ordinance amends Indian Telegraph Act 1855 to provide for voluntary use of Aadhaar number for identity verification. The telecom companies, which provide services as licensees under the Telegprah Act, are authorised to use Aadhaar number for verification of identity. Offline verification using Aadhaar is also permitted. However, it does not say that Aadhaar has to be compulsorily used for verification. Aadhaar, including its offline verification method, is specified as one of the means of identity verification. It may be noted that the the circular issued by the Department of Telecommunications on March 23,2017 mandating compulsory linkage of mobile numbers with Aaddhar was struck down by the SC on the ground that the circular had no statutory backing. The Ordiance fills up that void.
Bank accounts and Aadhaar :
It amends Prevention of Money Laundering Act to permit voluntary use of Aadhaar for identity verification by banks before opening bank accounts. As in the case of mobile connections, Aadhaar is specified as one of the means of identity verification, and there is no compulsion to use it. The PMLA(Maintainence of Records)(Second Amendment) Rules brought by the Government in 2017 mandating the linking of bank accounts with Aadhaar was also struck down by the SC.