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Aadhaar data breach story: Editors Guild condemns FIR against journalist, calls it ‘attack on freedom of press’

The Guild terms the police complaint against the journalist who reported on the alleged Aadhaar data breach a direct attack on the freedom of the press.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2018 19:15 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aadhaar data breach,UIDAI,Tribune
Employees mark their attendance through Aadhaar-based biometric system at the Planning Commission.(HT File Photo)

The Editors Guild of India has called “unfair and a direct attack on the freedom of the press” the FIR registered by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) against a journalist for a report that showed how Aadhaar details could be accessed for as little as Rs 500.

In a statement on Sunday, the guild asked the government to withdraw the case against Rachna Khaira of the Chandigarh-based The Tribune, saying the police complaint was “clearly meant to browbeat a journalist whose investigation on the matter was of great public interest.’

Khaira wrote on January 3 how anonymous sellers, operating through WhatsApp messaging platform, were providing access to the Aadhaar details of more than 1 billion people for Rs 500.

UIDAI runs the bio-metric identity number programme, which is already facing legal challenges in the Supreme Court over privacy concerns.

The Congress attacked the Modi government’s “arrogance”, saying its intention on privacy was thoroughly exposed.

“Intent and Intentions of Modi government on privacy were thoroughly exposed when it had proclaimed that no citizen can have an absolute right over his/her body,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted.

“In Supreme Court, Modi government had accepted Aadhaar data leak! Now instead of investigating, an evasive Modiji shoots the messenger!”

Earlier, he tweeted: “Shoot the messenger, Ignore the message! This typifies the culture and character of BJP government.”

Using a false identity, Khaira had got in touch with one of the “sellers” and said in her report that she had easy access to Aadhaar details.

While it claimed a data breach was not possible, UIDAI filed an FIR against the reporter under IPC sections 419 (punishment for cheating under impersonation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery), 471 (using a forged document) and also under sections of the information technology and the Aadhar acts.

The UIDAI should have ordered an internal investigation and made its findings public, the guild said. “The guild demands that the concerned union ministry intervene and have the cases against the reporter withdrawn apart from conducting an impartial investigation into the matter,” the statement said.

With inputs from agencies

First Published: Jan 07, 2018 18:52 IST