Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Monday that the National Democratic Alliance-led government is committed to the freedom of press amid criticism about the action taken against The Tribune for a report on the Aadhaar programme.
Prasad said, “I have suggested that the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) request The Tribune and it’s journalist to give all assistance to police in investigating real offenders.”
The daily had reported that anonymous sellers, operating through messaging service WhatsApp, were allegedly providing access to details of the more than 1 billion Aadhaar holders.
The Unique Identification Authority of India, which manages the Centre’s Aadhaar system, had on Sunday filed an FIR against The Tribune. While UIDAI in its complaint mentioned names of The Tribune, its reporter Rachna Khaira, the persons named in the news report and other unknown persons suspected to be involved in the process, the police has not named or pressed charges against any accused in the First Information Report.
“It is an open-ended FIR,” Delhi Police spokesperson Madhur Verma told Scroll.in. “Accused persons will be identified during the investigation.”
On January 4, the UIDAI had claimed that The Tribune had misreported an article about a breach of biometric data. In a rebuttal to the UIDAI’s accusation, The Tribune had stood by its report, and said the Aadhaar authority, in its response, had in fact admitted to the “misuse” of biometric data.
Tip of the iceberg, says reporter
Meanwhile, Khaira has vowed to reveal more information about breaches in the system. “I must tell you that we have just exposed the tip of the iceberg,” Khaira told NDTV. “We have almost completed our entire investigation.”
Khaira added: “It is better that the UIDAI understands the legality and the sensitivity that is involved in this kind of investigation.”
Criticism against the Centre
The Congress and an NDA legislator, Shatrughan Sinha, have criticised the Centre after reports said that The Tribune and the reporter were named in the FIR.
The Editors Guild of India had expressed concern over reports about the FIR. The guild said the reports suggested that the FIR was “a direct attack on the freedom of the press” and demanded an investigation into the violations in the Aadhaar system instead.