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UIDAI says Aadhaar Act prohibits police use of its biometric database


The Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) has responded to a pitch from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for limited Aadhaar access as a potential tool to aid police investigations, saying that the Aadhaar Act does not allow law enforcement use of the biometric database, and that it has never shared data with any law enforcement agency, The Times of India reports.

NCRB Director Ish Kumar said that gaining limited access to the Aadhaar database could help police catch first-time offenders and identify bodies.

“There is need for access to Aadhaar data to police for the purpose of investigation,” Kumar said. “This is essential because 80 to 85 per cent of the criminals every year are first time offenders with no records (of them available) with the police. But, they also leave their fingerprints while committing crime, there is need for limited access to Aadhaar, so that we can catch them.”

The UIDAI answered that Section 29 of the Aadhaar Act of 2016 prohibits access to Aadhaar for criminal investigation purposes. Section 33 of the Act allows very limited exceptions in cases of national security, but only after authorization by an oversight committee.

“It may be underlined here that when Mumbai high court gave orders to share biometric data with an investigating agency in a particular case, the matter was taken up to the Supreme Court which stayed that order,” the UIDAI said in a statement.

The UIDAI also pointed out that this position is part of the defence of Aadhaar before India’s Supreme Court, on which a ruling is expected soon, and that the Act only authorizes biometric data to be used to generate Aadhaar numbers and authenticate people 1-to-1.

Facial recognition is expected to be added to the Aadhaar program on August 1, which could also increase resistance to providing police access to the database, based on reactions to similar uses of biometrics in other countries.

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