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Aadhaar to be voluntary for mobiles, bank accounts

The government on Monday decided to move amendments to at least three laws to allow voluntary use of Aadhaar for getting a mobile connection or opening bank accounts. At the same time, consumers will have the option to use any other identity or address proof for availing of these services. 

The Union cabinet has proposed amendments to The Telegraph Act,
Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and the Aadhaar Act in what was described as a move to provide convenience to individuals who were willing to share their details. The amendments will once again open the doors for e-KYC, a biometric authentication facility for those who are open to sharing their Aadhaar details. 

The plan will also help telecom companies, banks and financial technology firms, which were worried about massive paperwork after the Supreme Court ordered that Aadhaar could not be mandatory for services other than direct benefit transfer, social welfare schemes or issuing of permanent account number (PAN) by the income tax department. The apex court had said the provision in the law had no legal backing, though it had held constitutional validity of Aadhaar for the distribution of state-sponsored welfare subsidies. 

The amendments proposed by the government also include a provision that gives a child the option to withdraw his/her Aadhaar details and thereby ask the Unique Authority of India (UIDAI) to strike down all the details from its servers once he/she turns 18. This will mean the UIDAI will have to delete all the data, including biometrics of the person who withdraws from the scheme.

"The amendments will enable use of Aadhaar in state's interest and it will also ensure privacy of Aadhaar information," said an official adding that the changes are in compliance with the SC order. Sources said the government has also accepted some of the recommendations of Justice Srikrishna Committee along with the SC ruling and is proposing to penalise those who do not comply with the norms related to deletion of details or denial of service.

Conceptualised under the previous UPA regime in 2009, under the extraordinary Aadhaar programme provides for giving every resident a biometric ID by assigning a unique 12-digit identification number after collecting their biometric data and photographs.

It was envisioned as a cost-saving tool that could improve the delivery of services and subsidies to poor by eliminating bogus beneficiaries and checking diversions.

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