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Aadhaar users may soon be able to opt out, get their data deleted

Srinagar, Dec 6: In what could prove to be a landmark move, the citizens may soon get an option to withdraw their Aadhaar number, including biometrics and the data from the servers of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

The government is in the last stages of finalising a proposal to amend the Aadhaar Act, following Supreme Court’s order to uphold it but with conditions, said a report in The Hindu.

This development comes after the Supreme Court’s September ruling that upheld the validity of Aadhaar, however, with certain riders. In a nutshell, the ruling said that while Aadhaar is constitutionally valid, it is not mandatory for all services.

A Constitution Bench had struck down Section 57 of the Act that allows private entities to use the unique number for verification. The Bench also declared that seeking to link it with bank accounts and SIM cards was unconstitutional.

“The initial proposal was prepared by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). It submitted that once a child turns 18, he/she will be given six months to decide if he/she wants to withdraw,” the Hindu reported quoting a senior official.

This proposal had been sent to the Law Ministry for vetting. “The Ministry further recommended that the option to withdraw be made available to all citizens, and not be limited to a particular group,” the report added.

The initial UIDAI proposal suggested that once a child turns 18, he/she be given six months to decide if he/she wants to withdraw from Aadhaar. But the Law Ministry further recommended that the option to withdraw be made available to all citizens, and not be limited to a particular group.

However, this proposal comes with a downside. If a person opts out of the Aadhaar scheme, he/she won’t be able to avail those government schemes and subsidies wherein Aadhaar linkage is still mandatory. The move is likely to benefit only those who do not have a PAN card or do not require one, as the court had upheld the linkage of PAN with Aadhaar.

Over 37.50 crore PANs have been issued till March 12, 2018. Of these, the number of PANs issued to individuals stood at more than 36.54 crore, of which about 16.84 crore have been linked with Aadhaar.

In line with the court order, the proposal seeks to appoint an adjudicating officer to decide whether a person’s Aadhaar related data need to be disclosed in the interest of national security.

The court had also struck down Section 33(2), which allowed disclosure of Aadhaar information for national security reasons on the orders of an officer not below Joint Secretary. It had said an officer above Joint Secretary should consult a judicial officer and together take a call.