A day after questions were raised in the Supreme Court over the legality of the Aadhaar project, the government on Tuesday fast-tracked a draft bill to give legal backing to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that issues the 12-digit number.
The court had said no person should be denied welfare benefits or services for not possessing the unique identification number in what is being seen as set back to the UPA’s showpiece direct transfer cash scheme in an election year.
The national identification authority of India draft bill seeks to address two major concerns raised by the petitioners as well as social activists: no legal backing for Aadhaar and violation of privacy of those enrolled. There is a provision of jail and fine — up to `1 crore — for any misuse of information or data theft.
A note seeking the cabinet’s nod to introduce the bill — which will give Aadhaar the legal backing — in Parliament was being circulated, a government official said.
“We have finalised the note covering all aspects,” the official said.
The bill, which is an improved version of the one that was rejected by a parliamentary panel in 2010, provides legal cover to the entire process right from the enrollment stage.
Enrolments are done by private agencies hired by state governments in consultation with UIDAI, which was set up through an executive order in 2009. These agencies directly feed in the demographic and biometric details into the UIDAI system.
Any unauthorised sharing of information would result in a jail term of up to three years and a fine, the official said. No personal information would be shared with any government agency unless authorised by a designated senior government official.
Data theft is to be punished with three-year jail term and a fine that can be as high as Rs. 1 crore.
After the cabinet’s nod, the bill would be introduced in the winter session of Parliament, Minister for planning Rajiv Shukla said. The Planning Commission, in-charge of UIDAI, expects the cabinet to take up the bill within a month.