- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced the Aadhaar Bill, 2016, in the Lok Sabha.
Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016
- The Bill provides statutory backing to Aadhaar, the unique identity number through which the government plans to target delivery of subsidy benefits and services.
- The expenditure for the nationwide Aadhaar exercise is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India.
- It seeks to make the use of Aadhaar mandatory for availing of government subsidies but at the same time tries to address concerns regarding privacy and protection of personal information.
- The bill has sought to address many provisions related to privacy and security of the biometric information provided by citizens. The bill provides that the information will be an electronic record and will be classified as “sensitive personal data or information” as per the provisions of the Information Technology Act.
- The Bill provides for the establishing of the Unified Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)
- The Bill also provides for the establishment, operation and maintenance of the Central Identity Data Repository.
- The Authority shall ensure the security, confidentiality and protection of identity information and authentication records of individuals in its possession or control, including the information stored in the repository, according to the Bill. These include biometric information collected, created and stored in electronic form.
- Under the provisions of the Bill, the Aadhaar number cannot confer right of or proof of citizenship of domicile.
- The bill prohibits the sharing of the core biometric information in any form. However, information about the identity of an individual, other than core biometric information, can be shared subject to certain conditions.
- The bill also mandates the enrolling agency to inform the individual undergoing enrolment on how the data will be used and with whom it will be shared and the fact that the individual can also access such information.
- The first reactions to the bill from legal experts were largely welcoming.
- The bill also provides provisions wherein institutions, after paying a fee, can authenticate the identity of a person. But for this, the institution should have the consent of the Aadhaar number holder.
- It directs UIDAI to have sufficient security of identity information and authentication record of individuals. It also directs UIDAI to ensure that agencies, consultants and its employees are bound by confidentiality and do not leak any information.
- To ensure that the number of people excluded from Aadhaar’s fold is minimum, the bill also talks about special measures that will be undertaken by the Authority to issue numbers to women, nomadic tribes, street dwellers, senior citizens, persons with disability and unskilled and unorganized workers. It also says the Aadhaar number by itself will not be considered proof of citizenship or domicile.
- It also provides for penalties for impersonation, unauthorized access and tampering of data in the Central Identities data repository that stores all such information.
- To be sure, the government has retained the right to use and access such information sought “in the interest of national security.”
- An estimated expenditure of Rs. 13,663.22 crore has been approved for implementing the Aadhaar scheme up to the financial year 2016-17
- It was introduced as a money Bill, which can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha and to which the Rajya Sabha — where the NDA government does not enjoy a majority — cannot make amendments. The Upper House can only make recommendations to money Bills and must return such legislation to the Lok Sabha within 14 days from the date of their receipt, thus ensuring a time-bound process.
- The government expects to address, through the proposed legislation, concerns that have been raised on the mandatory use of Aadhaar in government schemes.
- Most of the government’s social security schemes and digital initiatives are critically dependent on the use of Aadhaar. This unique identity number will also form the cornerstone of India’s move towards a cashless economy along with the opening of bank accounts as part of the Jan Dhan scheme.
- The Supreme Court has restricted the use of the Aadhaar number until a Constitution Bench delivers its verdict on a number of cases concerning privacy and other issues.The proposed legislation will also address the uncertainty surrounding the project after the Supreme Court restricted the use of the Aadhaar number until a constitution bench delivers its verdict on a number of cases challenging the mandatory use of Aadhaar in government schemes and rules on the issue of privacy violation.
- Violation of privacy and protection of biometric data has been one of the main criticisms of Aadhaar, which has enrolled almost a billion citizens in the unique identity scheme. This bill tries to address the concern
- From an overall perspective, this statute has the strongest privacy protection. It has extensive provisions regarding purpose limitation, which is the cornerstone of modern privacy jurisprudence.
- The other takeaway is the extremely powerful provisions regarding collection of biometric information. No one can reveal core biometric information to anybody from the central database, even the Aadhaar number holder. There is an absolute obligation to protect confidentiality.
- For the Bill being introduced as a money Bill
- If the Bill can be referred to the standing committee on finance? (Money Bills cannot be referred to a joint committee of Parliament.)
- There should have been some special provision making the officials of the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) more responsible so that no data is leaked by them
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