By Elton Gomes
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) today directed telecom companies to stop using Aadhaar for electronic verification of existing mobile phone customers as well as for issuing new connections, in compliance with a recent ruling by the Supreme Court.
Through a verdict in September, the Supreme Court had restricted the use of Aadhaar by private entities in the absence of a legal provision.
To comply with the order, the DoT on Friday issued detailed instructions ordering telecom companies to stop the usage of Aadhaar-based electronic-know your customer (e-KYC) and report compliance by November 5.
What has the DoT said
In its notification issued on Friday, the DoT said that telecom companies should prepare to adopt an alternate digital process wherein a customer acquisition form (CAF) be embedded with live photographs of subscribers and scanned images of a proof of address and identify. The DoT said it plans to make the entire process paperless.
“All licensees are to discontinue the use of Aadhaar e-KYC services of the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) both for verification as well as for issuing new mobile connections,” the DoT said, as per a report in the Indian Express.
The DoT has given operators time till November 5 to comply with the order and report their compliance. The companies will also have to submit proof of concepts of the alternate digital means through which they wish to conduct customer verification.
The DoT has directed that all operators have to stop using the Aadhaar-based e-KYC for re-verification of its existing subscribers with immediate effect.
Why is this step being taken
On September 26, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar act. Section 57 allowed private entities to access Aadhaar data.
According to the Supreme Court’s judgement, subscribers can voluntarily submit Aadhaar for proof of ID and proof of address to telecom companies for purposes of mobile number verification.
What next for telecom companies
The DoT’s order is most likely to deal a blow to telecom companies. Companies were hoping that the government would support the electronic verification of Aadhaar, on a voluntary basis, in view of saving time and costs.
Analysts are of the opinion that Reliance Jio might be more affected than other players. The DoT’s order could lower the pace of new subscriptions, potentially delaying the company’s plan to acquire a 50% revenue market share.
“Operators will be unhappy, but we are left with no choice. Customers will now have to submit their documents, which will be digitally scanned and submitted to the telcos’ database. It will be back to the earlier days,” a senior DoT official told the Economic Times on the condition of anonymity.
What do we know about the new verification process
According to Live Mint, as a new verification process, authorities previously proposed a mobile application with a one-time password (OTP).
The new process would involve photographing customers with location and time stamps, as well as their identification documents, the DoT and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) said in a joint statement.
“In the proposed process, live photograph of the person with latitude, longitude, and time stamp will be captured. The photo of the person’s ID such as Aadhaar card, voter ID, etc., will be captured. The SIM card agent will be authenticated through OTP (one time password) and SIM card will be issued. This process will be completely hassle-free and digital,” the statement said, Live Mint reported.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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