The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) does not know who is permitted to use Aadhaar number under the Aadhaar Act or for what purposes. Asked to specify the sections of the Aadhaar Act that define users, use of Aadhaar, the UIDAI says use of Aadhaar, and usage is to be determined by implementing agencies. This, says the UIDAI, can be done under section 7 or 57 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.
Section 7 says that “The Central government or, as the case may be, the State government may, for the purpose of establishing identity of an individual as a condition for receipt of a subsidy, benefit or service for which the expenditure is incurred from, or the receipt therefrom forms part of, the Consolidated Fund of India, require that such individual undergo authentication, or furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number or in the case of an individual to whom no Aadhaar number has been assigned, such individual makes an application for enrolment. Provided that if an Aadhaar number is not assigned to an individual, the individual shall be offered alternate and viable means of identification for delivery of the subsidy, benefit or service.”
Section 57 opens the “use of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual for any purpose, whether by the State or anybody corporate or person, pursuant to any law, for the time being in force, or any contract to this effect”.
The UIDAI says its role is limited to the issue of Aadhaar numbers and provision of authentication services for establishing identity of beneficiaries. It does not define identification, or take any responsibility for identification, or provide any information about the difference between identification and authentication, as it has already indicated in a previous RTI query.
This admission is a blow to the popular perception that Aadhaar identifies anyone.
Organisations have been using Aadhaar under the misguided notion that UIDAI is providing identification services when it merely authenticates the biometric or demographic information associated with a number. It puts every government or private organisation relying on the Aadhaar, under section 7 or 57 of the Aadhaar Act, to unprecedented exposure of their business and governance processes.
Authentication does not establish identity. It merely confirms that the person possesses the key to a lock, not if the person is the rightful owner of the key.
The UIDAI has also admitted that the unique ID is not unique. UIDAI does not certify identity, address, age, resident status or even existence of a person. It has no information about the documents used to issue a UID number. It does not know identification, it authenticates biometrics associated with the number. Its database has never been verified or audited. The continued issue of Aadhaar numbers required by the Aadhaar Act to be given, knowing that such numbers are false in any material point, would amount to a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Organisations linking, seeding or merging Aadhaar numbers with existing databases make real individuals to become indistinguishable from Aadhaar ghosts or persons who were never identified. The good database is destroyed making its use for governance or financial transactions dangerous from a national security perspective. Aadhaar is the AIDS spread to nations.
Interestingly, in its circular No 23011/Gen/2014/Legal-UIDAI dated 15 September 2016, Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey, chief executive (CEO) of UIDAI had advised governments or Central ministries and other agencies that they are required to issue a notification under section 7 of the Act read with Regulation 12 of the Aadhaar (Enrolment and Update) Regulations of 2016, including the following three points:
1. Mention the service, benefit or subsidies funded from the Consolidated Fund of India which will require, as a condition precedent, a beneficiary applicant to undergo Aadhaar authentication or furnish proof of Aadhaar number.
2. Mention that in case the applicant does not have Aadhaar, he will be required to make application for Aadhaar enrolment, if entitled under section 3of the Act, and arrangement made by the governments/central ministries and other agencies to provide Aadhaar enrolment facilities to him. In case there are no enrolment facilities nearby, they are required to become UIDAI registrars so that they can set up enrolment facilities themselves. It promises technical assistance and Rs. 40 per Aadhaar generated by the Registrars.
3. Mention the alternate identity documents and verification methodologies to confirm the identity of the beneficiary applicant to whom Aadhaar number has not been assigned till such number is assigned.
This amounts to making, altering or destroying the whole or any part of valuable databases, records that are signed or sealed, and identity information that is capable of being converted into a valuable security. It also amounts to corruptly using authentication as identification.
The UIDAI does not highlight the sections of Aadhaar Act that permit its use for filing forms, storage, seeding, and as a financial address in banks and payment systems like Aadhaar Enabled Payment Systems and PayTM in its reply to a RTI question asking them to do so. Section 7 and 57 of the Aadhaar Act do not permit the use of Aadhaar for filing forms, storage, seeding, and as a financial address in banks and payment systems like Aadhaar Enabled Payment Systems and PayTM. There is a widespread use of Aadhaar for filing forms, storage, seeding, and as a financial address in banks and payment systems like Aadhaar Enabled Payment Systems.
The Supreme Court of India is hearing more than 22 PILs challenging the use of Aadhaar. The RTI replies make it evident that two successive governments have been completely misled by private interests controlling the Aadhaar ecosystem. The entire Aadhaar is the biggest technology scam since the invention of computers.
(Professor and Future Designer Dr @AnupamSaraph is an internationally renowned expert on governance of complex systems.)