April 26, 2018
While the Aadhaar case was being heard by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, the Court questioned the Centre on the source of mandatory requirement to link Aadhaar number with mobile number. During the hearing reference was made to DoT’s (Department of Telecom) Circular of 2017 which directed telecom operators to conduct an Aadhaar-based re-verification of all mobile connections in view of Supreme Court’s order in the case of Lokniti Foundation v. Union of India.
While hearing the petition yesterday, Justice Chandrachud stated that the Supreme Court in the Lokniti case had not ordered Aadhaar-based e-KYC process.
The Centre responded by stating that it is empowered to issue such circular by virtue of Section 4(1) of the Telegraph Act which states that the Central Government shall have the exclusive privilege of establishing, maintaining and working telegraphs and that the Central Government may grant a license, on such conditions and in consideration of such payments as it thinks fit, to any person to establish, maintain or work a telegraph.
Lokniti Foundation v. Union of India
In this case taken up by the Apex Court in 2017, the petitioner approached the Court with a prayer that there should be a definite mobile phone subscriber verification scheme, to ensure 100% verification of the subscriber. In response, the Union of India in its counter-affidavit had emphasized on the `Aadhaar based E-KYC for issuing mobile connections’ on 16th August, 2016 wherein the customer as well as Point of Sale (PoS) Agent would be authenticated from Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) based on their biometrics and their demographic data received from UIDAI.
The Supreme Court in the case while appreciating the petition stated that the mobile verification process shall be completed by the Centre in near future, however in the Supreme Court’s order no reference was made to completing process through Aadhaar-based E-KYC process.