Aadhaar biometric authentication fine for government benefits but not for identifying dead bodies

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has written to commercial banks and the Reserve Bank of India to clarify that Aadhaar’s eKYC authentication capabilities can be used to confirm the identity of government subsidies and welfare recipients. For other uses, however, only the physical Aadhaar card itself can be used for verification, Business Today reports a source told PTI.

The offline or QR code functions of Aadhaar are among the options still available for voluntary use by customers not accessing DBTs (direct benefit transfers).

“There are viable and completely paperless and digital options available through digitally signed electronic form of Aadhaar which allows identity to be verified online without pinging our server,” UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey told PTI. “And through such methods the services can be seamlessly and digitally offered by banks for non-DBT customers.”

Banks can continue, therefore, to use Aadhaar enabled Payment Systems (AePS), BHIMAadhaar Pay, and Aadhaar-based micro-ATMs for DBT beneficiaries. The circular also reportedly told banks they can still perform Aadhaar authentication using eKYC to open new bank accounts for beneficiaries who opt for direct benefit deposits, but not for other new accounts. Due to the continued use of Aadhaar eKYC, banks will still be required to provide Aadhaar enrolment and update facilities.

The limits to Aadhaar authentication also extend to the deceased, as India’s Supreme Court has declined to hear a petition requesting that the biometric system be made available for the identification of dead bodies, NDTV reports. Petitioner Amit Sahni had asked the court to direct the UIDAI, the National Crime Record Bureau, and state governments to scan the biometrics of unidentified corpses to accelerate their release to families.

The court ruled that the petition was inadmissible, as Sahni already has a plea before the Delhi High Court to use Aadhaar biometrics to identify missing persons, the decision on which could presumably establish precedent.

The fallout of the Supreme Court’s decision to block some uses of Aadhaar is still being determined in several industries, including mobile telecommunications.

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