The Government of India introduced, on 24 June 2019, the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (‘the Bill’) to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament. In particular, the Bill seeks to replace the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and amend the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (‘the Aadhaar Act’), as well as the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019. In addition, the Bill would, among other things, allow for individuals to provide their Aadhaar number on a voluntary basis, ensuring that the non-use of Aadhaar will not result in denial of services, and provide the option for children to opt-out of the Aadhaar system at 18 years of age.
Mathew Chacko, Partner at Spice Route Legal, told DataGuidance by OneTrust, “The Bill enables the widespread use of the Aadhaar system by most private companies. [While] the Bill is definitely a positive development, it is not as comprehensive or as well thought out as one would expect it to be. […] It is an attempt to remedy certain core issues of the Aadhaar system [and can be viewed as] a quick fix. If the process of obtaining Aadhaar is simplified, more efficient, verification made more stringent, loopholes in the system plugged and its use made voluntary, we may have a very effective practical tool for distribution of social welfare scheme and benefits.”
Neither digital security issues nor privacy concerns have yet been adequately addressed
In addition, the Bill seeks to amend the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 by allowing the use of an Aadhaar number as an adequate Know Your Customer document. Furthermore, N.K. Premachandran, Member of Parliament for Kollam, outlined in his opposition to the Bill, that while the Supreme Court held in its 2018 decision that part of Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, which allows private entities to use Aadhaar for identification purposes, was unconstitutional, the Bill would allow private entities to hold Aadhaar data.
Chacko continued, “Neither digital security issues nor privacy concerns have yet been adequately addressed. [The fact that] this Bill [could be] passed before the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 (‘the PDP Bill’) is less than perfect. One hopes that the proposed Data Protection Authority under the PDP Bill will eventually step in to balance commercial expediency with privacy concerns.”
Please note that the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 4 July 2019.
TOOBA KAZMI Junior Privacy Analyst