What Do You Need Aadhaar For Now?
The Supreme Court has spoken. Four judges on a five-judge bench have upheld the legality of the Aadhaar Act. But with riders.
The key takeaway is that Aadhaar is a voluntary identification programme. But it’s compulsory for those who seek to receive any subsidy, benefit or service under a government welfare scheme.
So if you don’t have an Aadhaar number yet do you need one? And if you have one can you use it to open a bank account or digital wallet?
What Is Aadhaar Mandatory For?
- All Indians availing government welfare schemes and subsidies that are funded from the Consolidated Fund of India need an Aadhaar number.
- All taxpayers also need it to file their tax returns.
Not Mandatory For
- The government cannot make Aadhaar mandatory for other government services, the non-welfare scheme type. For instance you don’t need Aadhaar for enrolment in CBSE, NEET, JEE, UGC, etc.
- School admissions don’t need Aadhaar. Even admissions under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan scheme cannot be linked to Aadhaar. Because education is a fundamental right for children between 6 - 14 years.
- Aadhaar is not necessary to buy a SIM card. Nor can your telecom service provider force you to submit your Aadhaar number.
- Aadhaar is also not necessary to open a bank account or maintain your existing one. The Supreme Court was very categorical about that. But there’s a twist here. To open a bank account you need a PAN card and Aadhaar is mandatory for that.
What About Private Services?
While the Supreme Court has said Aadhaar is a voluntary programme, it pointed out that allowing any corporate or person to use Aadhaar for authentication, especially on the basis of a contract between the corporate and an individual, would enable commercial exploitation of private data and hence is unconstitutional.
- That makes it tough for digital payments and e-wallet companies to use Aadhaar for e-KYC based subscriptions.
- The same applies to banks or telecom companies like Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. which use Aadhaar-based identity authentication to enroll customers. So even if you are keen to use your Aadhaar number it’s not clear if they can accept it.
New Aadhaar Protection
Besides this, the Supreme Court has strengthened some citizen rights and safeguards.
- No child can be denied benefits of any government welfare scheme even if she doesn’t have an Aadhaar number.
- A court cannot order release of your Aadhaar information without giving you a hearing. And despite that if the court prevails, you can challenge its order in a higher court.
- So far only UIDAI could file complaints if the Aadhaar Act was violated. Now the Aadhaar-number holder can as well. So if an agency leaks your Aadhaar data you finally can speak up.
- In a matter of national security only a government officer of rank higher than joint secretary along with a sitting high court judge can order the sharing of your Aadhaar data.