Limited number of Indian citizens may have option to leave Aadhaar and delete biometrics

The Indian government is considering making Aadhaar optional for the country’s citizens, and is finalizing an amendment to Section 33(2) of the Aadhaar Act, which deals with disclosure of biometrics for national security reasons, The Tribune reports.

Ministry of Information Technology officials have nearly completed a proposed amendment to allow citizens to opt out of the Aadhaar system, and withdraw their Unique Identification (UID) number, a government source told The Tribune. The withdrawal would include the disposal of biometric and other data collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

The government has been weighing its options for the national ID system after a Supreme Court decision in September substantially altered the scope of its applicability.

The source told The Tribune that the UIDAI had proposed a six-month window for individuals to opt out on turning 18, and sent the proposal to the Ministry of Law and Justice.

“But the ministry suggested that the option to withdraw should be given to all citizens and this should not be limited to a particular group of people,” the official says.

The Supreme Court ruling validated the use of Aadhaar for government services, and the proposal would not apply to holders of Permanent Account Number (PAN) cards, which are mandatory for opening bank accounts, conducting financial transactions, and paying income tax. The Tax Department says 375 million PAN cards have been issued to date, and just under half (168.4 million) have been linked with Aadhaar.

The government is also reported to be negotiating with banking authorities on the expansion of Aadhaar’s offline, non-biometric eKYC processes.

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