Taking the dialogue on the validity of linking Aadhaar with mobile numbers a step forward, the central government has now contended Supreme Court’s recent claims about “never” ordering such linkage. Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal has pointed out nuances in a previous order by the apex court that recommends verifying of mobile numbers for security reasons.
The Attorney-General argued that a bench of Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice N.V. Ramana had, in fact, cited Aadhaar-based e-KYC as a suitable instrument of verification of mobile phone users’ identity on February 6, 2017. This order came in response to a PIL filed by Lokniti Foundation seeking a “definite mobile phone subscriber verification scheme” for preventing misuse of unverified mobile phones for crime and terror mongering. You can see the full order on the official Supreme Court website.
Friends on social media who are criticizing UIDAI and @rsprasad regarding linkage of SIMs with Aadhaar should read the SC order dated 6 Feb'17 on PIL filed by Lokniti Foundation which was clarified by the Attorney General, in Supreme Court yesterday – https://t.co/vVSu39R8EN pic.twitter.com/CPy46yNtcX
— Aadhaar (@UIDAI) May 4, 2018
But countering these references, Justice A.K. Sikri on the current bench said that the order was only a valid response to Lok Niti Foundation’s petition and that the Supreme Court had not issued solid directives to the government to convene the process or force citizens to link Aadhaar IDs with mobile phones.
The Attorney-General said that the government had instructed telecom operators to not to force subscribers to link Aadhaar IDs in anticipation of the court’s orders on the validity of Aadhaar law.
Aadhaar Not for Mass Surveillance: Governement
Dismissing appeals made by advocates Shyam Divan and Vipin Nair, Venugopal insisted that allegations about the government colluding with UIDAI for mass surveillance like a “totalitarian” regime were completely baseless. He also rejected other allegations like the government using Aadhaar to watch for the opposition parties’ activities to prevent them from entering coalitions.
Venugopal said the government cannot put any citizen on an “electronic leash“. Last week, the Supreme Court had ruled that Aadhaar is essential for availing benefits from social welfare schemes but it had maintained that linking mobile phones was not mandatory. This, however, had led to unrest due to the multiple recent disclosures about data leaks through government departments.
Several users also tried to pull UIDAI’s attention towards the recent incident in which Airtel hoodwinked many subscribers to open Airtel Payments Bank accounts without their consent. Another tweet pointed at an incident from last year where 10 Jio representatives were charged with forging user credentials and selling pre-activated SIM cards at a premium.
How did Reliance Jio retailers sell SIM cards linked to someone else's Aadhaar if there's NIL chance of fraud? https://t.co/hAvAcOf80O
— (@kingslyj) May 4, 2018
Despite these allegations, UIDAI maintained that linking Aadhaar with various services is not only beneficial but also safe. The court, however, did not deliver an order, and will oversee other petitions and counter-claims next week.