New Aadhaar legislation tabled to establish voluntary biometric verification rules

India’s government has tabled legislation in the Lok Sabha intended to set a legal foundation for the use of Aadhaar biometrics for a wide variety of services, on a voluntary basis, India Today reports.

The bill will replace an ordinance issued in March to enable customers of banks and telecoms to use the identification system for KYC checks The ordinance was passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modhi’s Cabinet after a similar bill was approved by the previous sitting of the Lok Sabha, but rejected by the Rajya Sabha (upper house). The composition of the Rajya Sabha remains largely unchanged, raising the possibility that the current bill could fail to be ratified, just as the last did.

Union Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced the new bill, which includes new, heavier penalties for violating Aadhaar rules. Entities found in violation of Aadhaar regulations would be subject to penalties of Rs 10 million (roughly US$140,000) plus Rs 1 milllion ($14,000) per day of ongoing violation. Biometric registration for Aadhaar will also be voluntary for Indians on reaching 18 years of age.

The bill also includes provisions for a virtual identification number to enhance the privacy of Aadhaar numbers during verification processes, the establishment of the Unique Identification Authority of India Fund and related regulatory powers, and ensuring citizens are not denied services based on a lack of Aadhaar authentication.

The financial inclusion gains made through India’s biometric digital ID system have been praised, but critics have suggested the system is more beneficial to businesses than citizens.

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