After the Supreme Court orders regarding discontinuing the linkage of Aadhaar card with mobile numbers, the telecom companies are in a fix. This is about to impact these companies in a big way, as they were heavily relying on the Aadhaar card data for authentication and verification of customers. The Supreme Court stated that it had never asked for mobile numbers to be connected with Aadhaar. The number of subscribers who have not linked phone numbers to Aadhaar is believed to be of a substantially large number.
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Aadhaar card is an identification proof issued by UIDAI (unique identification authority of India), through including the various biometric details like finger print scan and iris scan. It also includes other information like address and date of birth. Once all the information is gathered, the UIDAI issues a 12-digit number that is unique to each individual.
The Supreme Court has stated that linking Aadhaar to certain services like mobile number and bank account is not mandatory. However Aadhaar is a must to avail various services related to social welfare schemes and subsidies. The IT department has devised a facility for e-PAN on real time basis. This move enables tax payers generate the permanent account number PAN, without any hassles.
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However, Aadhaar Card is not mandatory to get a mobile SIM. The Supreme Court has directed telecom companies to accept an alternative identification proof.
In the below mentioned points, we will summarize how this judgment affects telecom companies and their subscribers.
In the past, UIDAI had directed the telecom operators to validate a facility which enables subscribers buy SIM cards, using the unique identification number. It was a step taken to cease unauthorized linkages. Consequently the private telecom companies and mobile service providers had built a system known as e-KYC, which means electronic know your customer, an authentication process that centers on the biometric database.
The telecom vendors will have to find alternative ways to identify and verify customers. Shifting the entire process from online to offline is not only time consuming, but it also incurs an additional cost. Online KYC identification costs per person were much lower than the physical KYC identification process. So, establishing new infrastructure will lead to an additional cost.
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The KYC verification model is an error free and convenient method of verification. It is fast and takes minimum time to identify and authenticate customers. Previously, customers would get a SIM card within an hour after getting biometrics verified through Aadhaar.
After the Supreme Court orders, customers must follow the old method of verification. Now, they will have to provide photographs and fill elaborate forms and wait for a minimum of 2-3 days to obtain SIM cards. The verification may take time and there are chances of fraud. The top court instructs the use of Aadhaar to be limited to certain purposes and requires its privacy to be protected.
The apex court has ruled that it is unconstitutional for telecom companies to seek Aadhaar details from customers. The companies must operate on the offline mode of verification. In the past, customers would get biometrics verified by providing Aadhaar details. They now have to go through the tedious process of filling forms and submitting photographs. The forms are then directed to verification centers who call customers to verify the requisite details. This would mean a delay in providing SIM cards.
The UIDAI asked the private companies to submit plans regarding closing down electronic authentication systems by 15th October. The decision was taken in line with the Supreme Court order, barring the use of Aadhaar to validate identity of customers. A circular was issued addressing various telecom providers to submit a plan for discontinuing biometric based authentication services.
On 26th September, the apex court ruled that it is “unconstitutional” for private companies to seek Aadhaar for authentication. A five member jury headed by former chief justice Deepak Mishra read section 57 of the Aadhaar Act that allows companies, state or person to use the unique ID to establish the identity of any individual for any purpose. Post the apex court verdict, Aadhaar can only be used by the government for social welfare schemes.
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