The Bill seeks to amend Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act 2016 and to further amend the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002.
The Bill, which proposes giving a child an option to exit from the biometric ID program on attaining 18 years of age, will make the use of Aadhaar for opening bank accounts and procuring mobile phone connections voluntary.
Replying to the debate, Prasad said that Aadhaar was in the national interest and it does not violate the privacy of any individual. He said the government respects the protection of individual’s Data and the Data Protection law work is in progress and will come soon.
“The proposed amendment is strictly in compliance with the court decision. It is completely voluntary. The voluntary nature of the compliance is based upon the consent of the owner of the Aadhaar,” he said.
He said the proposed Amendments are “wholesome” and in the compliance with Supreme Court order. “It makes Aadhar voluntary with proper safeguards and I would urge the House,” he said.
The minister said benefits of the scheme will not be denied to someone who does not have an Aadhaar.
“We have ensured safeguards for the prohibition of data theft,” the Minister said adding that India’s data sovereignty needs to be protected fully and categorically and Aadhaar is clear on it.
Slamming the members for referring to the Supreme Court order to oppose the Bill, Prasad said, “Don’t turn this House into a court. We are here to make laws and we also have the power to undo judgment. Please, I would urge don’t minimise your power. The people of the country have given you power to frame laws.”
Prasad, who is also Minister of Law and Justice, said more than 123 crore people have been enrolled in Aadhar and around 70 crore mobile phones are connected to Aadhaar number. He said around 2.5 crore Aadhar authentications are done daily in the country.
Aadhar is getting appreciation globally and many countries are showing interest to follow the India’s digital identification scheme,”he said.
Congress, Trinamool Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party and some other opposition members opposed the frequent promulgation of Ordinances by the government.
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said Aadhaar was a brainchild of Congress-led UPA government and the accused the government of frequently resorting to ordinances.
“The government should first bring data protection bill,” he said, adding that it was not giving due importance to privacy.
Opposing the Bill, Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra said that the bill violates Supreme Court judgment and lacks transparency.
“How can I be debating the bill and be able to give assent for something I am not clear about and which is not transparent about, sir”, she said asking for more transparency in the measure during a debate on the bill.
“This bill strikes at the very heart of the primacy of an individual, and privacy of an individual’s data. This is what the Supreme Court in their judgement also tried to talk about. There are three very problematic clauses in this amended bill,” said Moitra.
She said that Addhar was meant to provide services to the poor and was never meant to provide data.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP Supriya Sule alleged that people’s data is being allowed to benefit the private sector.
“People’s data is allowed to benefit private sector which is shameful for the government The NCP MP from Baramati parliamentary constituency said that 65 crore people connected their mobiles phones to Aadhaar because there was no other option available,”she said.
Biju Janata Dal’s Pinaki Mishra said, unfortunately, Aadhaar like GST is really a lesson that should be obtained in the country in terms of bipartisanship.
“We have seen Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury taking the credit for Aadhaar” saying that they initiated it. Now, they are opposing it. Unfortunately, the Treasury Benches today, are waxing eloquently in terms of Aadhaar. They were opposing it when they were in the Opposition like the GST. Unfortunately, this is not good for this country.
“Therefore, I implore both the major political parties that in future at least when they know in their heart of hearts that there is something which is in the interest of the country, they should come up with constructive suggestions as we do in Odisha rather than, as a matter of principle, just keep objecting,” he said.