Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley, introduced the Aadhar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, widely known as Aadhar Act 2016, in Lok Sabha on March 3.
The bill was passed as Money Bill. This article elaborates the important aspects of Aadhar Act 2016, the need for it and what makes it different from the previous Aadhar Bill 2010.
Aadhar Act 2016 – Explained:
The objective of the Act is to provide for targeted delivery of subsidies and services to individuals residing in India based on Aadhar numbers.
- Every Indian citizen is eligible for Aadhar number.
- Biometric (photograph, finger print, iris scan) and demographic (name, date of birth, address) information have to be produced in order to obtain Aadhar number.
If required, the Unique Identification Authority (UIDAI) may specify other information to be collected as per regulations.
During the enrolment process, the residents will be informed of the following details:
- Proposed manner in which the information will be used
- The nature of recipients with whom the information will be shared
- The right to access this information
- Aadhar number will be used to verify the identity of a person receiving a subsidy or a service provided by the government. For those without Aadhaar number, Government will require them to apply for it, and in the meanwhile, provide an alternative means of identification.
- The UIDAI authenticates the Aadhar number of an individual based on request from the entity. The Aadhaar number will not be misused since the overseeing authority can respond to an authentication query only with a positive, negative or other appropriate response. It is not permitted to share biometric attributes, including finger prints and iris scans.
- Biometric information such as an individual’s finger print, iris scan and other biological attributes (specified by regulations) can be shared only under two circumstances – for national security or on court orders.
- A person may be punished with imprisonment up to three years and minimum fine of Rs 10 lakh for unauthorized access to the centralized data-base.
- Aadhar number can be used as proof of identity, but not as a proof of citizenship or domicile status.
- No court shall take cognizance of any offence except on a complaint made by the UID authority or a person authorized by it.
Why was Aadhar Act 2016 Passed?
- The Aadhar Act 2016 will provide statutory backing to the UIDAI consisting of “a Chairperson (part time or full time) and two Members (part time)”.
- The Act has penalty provision which includes imprisonment in the range of one to three years or penalty in the ranges of Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh for violation of the rules.
- The targeted subsidy through Aadhar cards of LPG consumers had resulted in over Rs 15,000 crore of savings at the Centre.
- Some states which had started PDS delivery by a similar exercise on a pilot basis, had saved more than Rs 2,300 crore.
- Both central and state government can use Aadhaar for disbursal for benefits and subsidies.
Click here to read more about Aadhar card benefits.
Sections of debate on Aadhar Act 2016:
- The Aadhar Act allows private persons to use Aadhaar as a proof of identity for any purpose which contradicts the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Act.
- A writ petition in the Supreme Court claims that Aadhaar may be in violation of right to privacy as there are provisions in the Act with regard to protection of identity information and authentication records.
- The Aadhar Act permits sharing of information in the interest of ‘national security’ rather than for public emergency or public safety.
- There may be situations in which members or employees of the UID authority are responsible for a security breach. Hence it contradicts the provision which says that “Courts cannot take cognizance of any offence punishable under the Act, unless a complaint is made by the UID authority, or a person authorized by it.”
- Maintaining authentication records by the UID Authority over a long time period may be misused for activities such as profiling an individual’s behavior.
Aadhar Act 2016 vs Aadhar Act 2010:
On 26 March 2016, the Central Government passed the Aadhar Act 2016. The following are the differences between the Aadhar Acts of 2016 and 2010.
|Eligibility||Any person who has resided in India for 182 days (in the one year preceding the application for Aadhaar) is entitled for Aadhar number||Any person residing in India is entitled for Aadhar|
|Identification||Aadhaar number can be used to verify identity of a person receiving a subsidy or service. In its absence, an alternative means of identification can be used.||No such provision|
|Any public or private entity can use Aadhar number for verification of individual’s identity.||No such provision|
|Maintenance of data by UIDAI||The identity information to be maintained is clearly specified. (photograph, biometric information, demographic information and any other biological information)||The kinds of biometric information and a mention of photograph was not specified.|
|It is mandatory to maintain all information related to requests for verification of identity.||No such provision|
|Organization||The Chairperson and members of authority shall have experience and knowledge of at least 10 years in matters related to technology, governance, law, etc.||No mention of the time period of experience|
|The revenue collected by the authority shall be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India.||In addition, it is mandatory to transfer back the entire amount to the authority.|
|No system to analyze the use of Aadhaar numbers||Identity Review Committee was set up to analyze the extent and pattern of usage of Aadhaar numbers across the country.|
|Constraints on information sharing||There are strict constraints for manipulating information collected during enrolment as well as for authentication processes.||No such restriction|
|Biometric information of individuals cannot be given, except for regulatory purposes.||No such provision|
|Without the consent of the individual, the agency requesting authentication for identity cannot use the disclosed information.||No such provision|
|Formation of Oversight Committee (which includes cabinet secretary, secretaries of legal affairs and information technology) and setting up a time period for cases where Aadhar information of an individual need to be revealed.||No mention of validity period. Also no requirement of Oversight Committee.|
|Offences and penalties||A person shall be punished with imprisonment for up to|
three years and slapped a fine not less than Rs 10 lakh if he/she gains unauthorized access to the Central Identities Data Repository or reveal any information stored in the repository.
|Fine was as high as Rs 1 crore.|
|If a requesting entity uses the details for any purpose other than authentication, and an enrolling agency fails to comply with its rules, they shall be punishable with imprisonment extendable to three years or a fine up to Rs 1 lakh (in case of a company) or both.||No such provision|
|If an offence is committed for which no penalty is specified, the person concerned shall be punished with imprisonment up to|
one year or fine up to Rs 25,000 or Rs 1 lakh (in case of a company) or both.
|Imprisonment was up to three years|
The Aadhar Act 2016 is the key to the ambitious financial inclusion programme of the Government. The Act empowers Aadhaar with legal backing for the purpose of transferring subsidies and other welfare services to beneficiaries through designated bank accounts.
Banks can use Aadhaar number as an identity proof, which will help them weed out fake Jan Dhan accounts.
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