The Aadhaar Act, in its present form, does not empower the UIDAI to take enforcement action against errant entities in the Aadhaar ecosystem.
The government has notified rules enabling the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to appoint adjudicating officers to act against violators of the Aadhaar Act and impose penalties to the tune of Rs 1 crore, nearly two years after the legislation was passed.
The Centre notified the UIDAI (Adjudication of Penalties) Rules, 2021 on 2 November under which the UIDAI may initiate a complaint against an entity in the Aadhaar ecosystem for failure to comply with the Act or the UIDAI’s directions, and furnish information required by the UIDAI.
Adjudicating Officers appointed by the UIDAI shall decide such matters, and may impose penalties up to Rs 1 crore on such entities. The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal shall be the appellate authority against decisions of the Adjudicating Officer.
The government had brought the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Act, 2019 to introduce this aspect so that the UIDAI gets powers similar to that of a regulator for taking enforcement actions. The Aadhaar Act, in its present form, does not empower the UIDAI to take enforcement action against errant entities in the Aadhaar ecosystem. “This needs to be addressed with a view to protect privacy and also to ensure the autonomy of the UIDAI,” the law passed in 2019 had argued. A new chapter was inserted in Aadhaar Act to provide for civil penalties.
The new rules notified on 2 November say that the adjudicating officer will not be below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India, possess working experience of 10 years or more, and possess administrative or technical knowledge in any of the disciplines of law, management, information technology or commerce with at least three years of relevant experience. The UIDAI may nominate an officer of UIDAI to be known as a Presenting Officer to present the case on behalf of the Authority before the Adjudicating Officer, the rules say.
The Adjudicating Officer, before adjudging penalty, shall issue a notice to the person or entity alleged to have committed the contravention, requiring them or it to show cause why the penalty should not be imposed on him or it and clearly indicate the nature of contravention, non-compliance or default under the Act. The Adjudicating Officer shall have the power to summon and enforce the attendance of any person acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case to give evidence.
The amount of any penalty imposed by Adjudicating Officer shall be deposited into the UIDAI Fund and if not paid, may be recovered as if it were an arrear of land revenue, the rules say.
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