The Home Ministry on Friday issued a notification saying Aadhaar would be mandatory for the registration of deaths, starting October 1. The ministry said that this rule will “provide an effective method to prevent identity fraud” and ordered the provisions to come into effect for all states excepting Jammu & Kashmir, Assam and Meghalaya, for which the rules will be notified later.

Aadhaar, the Indian government’s massive project to provide every resident with a 12-digit unique identity number attached to their biometric data, has become mandatory for a huge number of government services over the past year. This is despite the validity of the project and its impact on privacy being challenged in the Supreme Court.The government now requires the 12-digit number for everything from bank accounts to kerosene subsidies to TB patients who are due cash assistance. In Haryana, it has become virtually mandatory for birth certificates. And now, it seems, the government has extended Aadhaar from the cradle to the grave as well.

Online, there was plenty of discussion over what this means – and particularly what would happen if a dead person does not have Aadhaar.

The actual text of the notification however, is a little more nuanced. You can indeed die without an Aadhaar, but it will be difficult for your next of kin or guardians to get a death certificate if they do not have the 12-digit unique identity.

“An applicant applying for death certificate is required to provide Aadhaar number or Enrolment ID Number (EID) of the deceased and other details as sought in the application for death certificate for the purpose of establishing the identity of the deceased.” 

Simply put, if you are trying to get a death certificate, you need to provide the Aadhaar number or Aadhaar enrollment number of the person who has died. But what if they don’t have the unique ID, or you do not know their number?

“An applicant who is not aware of the Aadhaar number or Enrolment ID Number (EID) of the deceased will be required to provide a certificate that the deceased person does not possess Aadhaar to the best of his/her knowledge and it should be duly informed and also prescribed that any false declaration given by the applicant in this regard will be treated as offence as per provisions of the Aadhaar Act 2016, and also Registration of Birth and Death Act, 1969.” 

So if you do not know the person’s Aadhaar, or they don’t have one, you need to put this down in writing before you can get the death certificate. And if you are found to have lied about this, that counts as a legal offence.

“Applicant’s Aadhaar number shall also be collected along with the Aadhaar number of the spouse or parents.” 

This is the actual mandatory part. Anyone applying for a death certificate must provide their Aadhaar number. There is no option to get one without an Aadhaar, and the applicant is require to provide the Aadhaar of deceased’s spouse or parents as well. The notification doesn’t however say what will happen if the applicant doesn’t provide Aadhaar, though it does use the word ‘shall’ indicating that it is mandatory.

According to a report by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence dating back to 2006, it is estimated that of the 9 million deaths that occur in India every year, only about 48% are registered. That is true despite it being mandatory under law, via the Registration of Births & Deaths Act, 1969, for every death to be registered within 21 days of it occurrence.

Now that requirement has become even more exacting, since it will require the quoting of, for the most part, the Aadhaar of both the person who is applying for the certificate as well as that of the deceased. The notification says it will be an offence for anyone who deliberately hides the Aadhaar number of the dead person while applying for the certificate, but it is yet unclear how the government will verify if someone had knowledge of a family member’s possession of Aadhaar.

The Unique Identity Authority of India, which oversees the Aadhaar scheme, has in the past told people not to share their document number or a printed copy of the UID with “anyone,” though it now seems nearly mandatory for family members or spouses to share their Aadhaar with each other.