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Telcos will continue to link Aadhaar to mobile phones despite SC order: COAI

Telecom operators will continue to link mobile phones to Aadhaar for e-KYC for subscriber verification despite the Supreme Court’s judgment on the Right To Privacy, Cellular Operators of India (COAI) said in a statement. “Unless there are specific instructions from the department of telecom to the contrary, this judgment would not impact the ongoing exercise of mandatory linking all mobile numbers to Aadhaar for e-KYC for subscriber verification,” the statement read.

“We await any further instruction or reference from the licensor in this regard,” it added.

The Department of Telecom has issued a note in March saying that all telecom operators will have to ensure that their subscribers link mobile numbers to Aadhaar number within a year.

This followed orders from the Supreme Court dated 6th February 2017, passed in a Writ Petition (C) No 607/2016 filed by Lokiti Foundation vs Union of India, where the court had said that “an effective process has been evolved to ensure identity verification, as well as, the addresses of all mobile phone subscribers for new subscribers. In the near future, and more particularly within one year from today, a similar verification will be completed, in case of existing subscribers.”

The DoT believed that the court’s  statement “amounts to direction which is to be completed within a time frame of one year.”

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Full statement below:

“This is truly a historic day for the country. The Hon. Supreme Court’s order upholds the Right to Privacy for all Indians. It is a complex and voluminous order and the association is carefully studying it. All our members are licensed operators and are therefore bound by licence conditions, always remaining fully compliant with the law of the land.   Therefore, unless there are specific instructions from DoT to the contrary, this judgment would not impact the ongoing exercise of mandatory linking all mobile numbers to Aadhaar for e-KYC for subscriber verification. The ongoing exercise presently carried out by telcos for subscriber verification, are as per strict guidelines issued, monitored and enforced by DoT. We await any further instruction or reference from the licensor in this regard.   Further, we have full confidence that matters of security will be dealt with appropriately by the Union Government keeping a careful and sensitive balance between individual interests and legitimate concerns of the State.  National security, network resilience, consumer interests and privacy are also of utmost priority to the industry   We reiterate our advisory that internet and telecom users across the country must exercise caution when sharing personal or sensitive information online.  The association will continue to work with the government for nation building and enhancing consumer experience for a fully connected and digitally empowered India.”

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