The Union Cabinet on Monday approved amendments to two laws to make it optional to link biometric identification Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile numbers, the Hindustan Times reported. Citizens will be able to choose other modes for Know-Your-Customer or KYC verification after the proposed changes to the Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act are passed by Parliament.
The amendments come nearly three months after a Supreme Court ruling on the matter in September. The top court had upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar but struck down its mandatory use by private companies. The government may table the amendment bills in the ongoing Winter Session of the Parliament, PTI reported.
Under the amendments, Aadhaar users can opt for offline verification without needing to share their biometric ID. The Cabinet also proposed a jail sentence of up to 10 years, instead of the current three years, for those who try to hack Aadhaar data, according to PTI. Children enrolled for Aadhaar by their parents will be able to opt out after they turn 18 if the amendments are approved, unidentified officials were quoted as saying.
Private entities that use Aadhaar data for authentication will have to “take care of the privacy and security” of the information if the amendments are approved, officials told The Indian Express.
The Supreme Court’s verdict in September, passed by a 4:1 majority, had come after several petitioners raised concerns about privacy and asked why the unique identity number was made mandatory for people to avail of welfare schemes, file income tax returns, hold mobile numbers, and bank accounts. The court made Aadhaar optional for mobile phones and bank accounts but said it would still need to be linked with PAN cards for filing income tax returns.