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UIDAI Cites ‘National Security’ to Block RTI Query On Fake and Duplicate Aadhaar Cards

In court, the government said Aadhaar is needed because there are lots of fake and duplicate PAN cards. So why won’t it say how many dodgy Aadhaar cards there are?

File photo of women in Ajmer holding up their Aadhaar cards. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: When the question of linking the biometric-based Aadhaar identity card with the income tax system was challenged in the Supreme Court, the Modi government said that this was the only way to deal with the rampant problem of fake and duplicate PAN cards. Income tax assessees were able to generate multiple PAN numbers for themselves and thus evade taxes, the government said, citing figures which critics noted were highly exaggerated.

In accepting the government’s logic that the mandatory use of the Aadhaar number in income tax returns was “directly connected with the issue of duplicate/fake PANs”, the Supreme Court last week took at face value the government’s claim that the problem of duplication and fake cards would not affect Aadhaar.

But how robust is this claim and what does the data tell us? The problem is the UIDAI is unwilling to provide that information.

PTI reported on Monday that theUnique Identification Authority of India has refused to share information on the number of fake and duplicate Aadhaar cards, saying the disclosure might affect national security, or can lead to incitement of an offence.

Replying to an RTI query by a PTI correspondent, the UIDAI, which issues the Aadhaar card, also refused to give details of any action it has taken in such cases.

The UIDAI told PTI that its Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) facilities, information assets, logistics and infrastructure and dependencies, are all classified as a ‘protected system’ under section 70(1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and thus exempt from the RTI.

“Any disclosure of the UIDAI grievance database, which essentially forms a part of the UIDAI CIDR operations, therefore, would have an impact on national security, strategic, scientific and economic interest of the state etc.,” the UIDAI told the PTI correspondent in response to her RTI application.

PTI adds:

The authority was asked to provide details related to all cases of duplicate and fake Aadhaar cards received by the UIDAI, and also the action taken on them.

The information sought would fall under Section 8(a) of the RTI Act, and therefore, it is denied, the UIDAI said.

The section bars information the “disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence”.

Further, the format in which information is held by the UIDAI, contains identity details which, if divulged, maybe prone to identity-theft etc, the authority said.

The Aadhaar card carries a 12-digit unique identification number. The card in turn acts as a proof of identity and address.

There have been a few complaints against certain unauthorised websites for promising Aadhaar-related services.

At least eight FIRs have been filed by police against as many unauthorised websites for promising such services.

With inputs from PTI