Aadhaar-based authentication of customers is set to resume — albeit in offline mode — after the attorney general opined that this will stand legal scrutiny, according to a top government official.
This will come as an immediate relief for the telecom and banking sectors even as government moves legal changes for voluntary use of Aadhaar by these sectors. “Offline authentication will stand scrutiny,” said Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey. All regulators are on the same page with respect to this, he said, indicating its fast rollout once systems are in place.
Authentication by Aadhaar through QR codes and other means will likely be available in a few weeks, allowing banks and telecom companies to resume customer acquisition that had stalled following the Supreme Court ruling in the Aadhaar case in September. The court had disallowed online customer authentication by private entities using the biometric database.
Service providers, however, will have to make changes in the infrastructure to enable this method of authentication. The UIDAI has already introduced machine-readable QR codes that hold relevant details such as names, addresses and dates of birth of Aadhaar holders.
The code, which will be available for download from the Aadhaar website, can be used in the offline mode for authentication without revealing the 12-digit ID. This means private service providers won’t have access to the Aadhaar database and customer information but will be able to carry out authentication.
The Supreme Court’s September 26 verdict upheld Aadhaar’s constitutional validity and said it would be required to avail of government-run benefit schemes but it wouldn’t be mandatory for services such as banking and telephony. That had put banks and phone companies in a bind, because they were using it as a friction-free mode of verification for opening accounts and providing mobile connections.
Apart from welfare schemes, Aadhaar’s use in the filing of income tax returns and allotment of Permanent Account Numbers was upheld by the court. India has enrolled more than 1.22 billion people under Aadhaar. The government has been eyeing measures to tide over difficulties posed by the judgement in authentication by private agencies.