Soon after the government asked telecom operators to accept KYC (Know Your Customer) documents other than Aadhaar for SIM verification, attorney-general KK Venugopal informed the Supreme Court that this was just a temporary measure and therefore, soon Aadhaar verification will be made applicable for licensing condition.
As per reports, Venugopal claimed that the Supreme Court had “ordered verifying phone SIM cards using Aadhaar in the Lok Niti case but a Constitution Bench disputed his contention.” At the time, the court had expressed its doubts over passing any such order and the government had then conceded that the court had not.
The Attorney General has now raised the issue again and emphasised that the government had gone by the court’s ruling in the Lok Niti case to imply that all SIM cards must be verified using the unique ID card. He added that if they hadn’t, the government had been in contempt as the court had recorded this in its interim order. “We were asked to complete the process within a year.”
Venugopal suggested that linking other KYC documents instead of Aadhaar was a temporary measure till the court ruled on the validity of the Aadhaar Act. He also suggested that the provision could be made a statutory condition for granting licences to telecom companies.
However, the Chief Justice of India, who heads the five-judge constitution bench hearing the Aadhaar case, insisted that the Lok Niti order was not based on any adjudication on whether SIM cards should be linked to Aadhaar or not.
In the ruling, Supreme Court had said that the Centre should complete SIM card verification in a year when it was informed that the government had started the process using Aadhaar. It came after a PIL was filed seeking a security verification to prevent SIM card misuse in criminal activities.
On April 25, while hearing the Aadhaar case, the SC reproached the Indian government for invoking Supreme Court’s name while asking people to link Aadhaar with their mobile number. To which, the UIDAI lawyer Rakesh Dwivedi accepted the fact that there was no Supreme Court order making it compulsory to link Aadhaar with mobile phone numbers.
It’s worth noting that Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Union Minister of Law, on September 10, 2017, had tweeted, “Yes, you need to link your mobile number with unique identity as directed by the SC.”
With more than three months gone, the hearings in the Indian Supreme Court haven’t seen any sort of consensus happening. What started with the Right to Privacy issue on whether it should become mandatory to make the unique ID card linked with all bank accounts, mobile services, Pan card and other services, has also glazed through Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data breach.