Updates

Parliament update: Issues raised by MPs on Aadhaar

The following are links to, and text of discussion by members of parliament in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha this week:

Bhupendra Yadav's private member resolution to hold Lok Sabha and Assembly elections simultaneously to be taken up tomorrow in RS. He suggests linking of Aadhaar number with Election Card. 

 (list of business  for-  http://164.100.47.5/newlobsessions/sessionno/242/310317.pdf)

2.  Full text of March 29 Rajya Sabha proceedings where Aadhaar was discussed  - ( http://164.100.47.5/newdebate/242/29032017/Fullday.pdf)

KTS Tulsi -

Sir, through you, I wish to raise three concerns with regard to the Finance Bill. The first is with regard to making Aadhaar mandatory for various schemes, the second is, removing the cap on corporate funding, and the third is, rubbishing several tribunals in a jiffy.

Sir, with regard to the Aadhaar, I want to bring to the attention of this august House that Section 29 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, as notified, categorically provides that the core biometric information collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India under the Act shall not be shared with anyone for any reason whatsoever. Now, that is a legislative provision. Now, when the Act was notified under the Rules, what is being provided is that any individual agency or entity, which collects the Aadhaar Number and the document containing it, shall obtain consent.

When the Act says, “It cannot be shared for any reason whatsoever”, how can you prescribe a procedure of voluntary consent? Consent could also be by force. When the use of this Card is forbidden for any other purpose whatsoever, it cannot be allowed to be introduced. The rules are in conflict with Section 29 and Section 8(3) is also in conflict with Section 29. This is going to create a huge problem.

The provisions therefor permitting sharing of biometric information by merely informing, which is taken to be consent, is fraught with danger. It was meant only for the purpose of delivering public services.

The question is: How safe is our data? It has already been scrapped in the UK as well as in France. The then Home Secretary, now the Prime Minister, Theresa May, in 2010, announced the end of the ID Card project of 2010 and said, “We need to balance national security and civil liberties.” Australia in 2007 cancelled the Social Services Access Card because of the dangers which were inherent with the hacking or the leakage of that information.

France in 2012 sought to justify this but the Identification Protection Act was declared to be unconstitutional by the highest Court in France. Today, there are petitions pending in the Supreme Court which have been referred to a 9-Judge Bench. We are permitting doing of things through subterfuge of a rule what was prohibited by the Act.

The Supreme Court on 15th October, 2015 allowed Aadhaar Card to be used only for the six Government schemes of Public Distribution, that is, LPG, rural employment, employees’ provident fund, pension scheme and so on. Now, there are several Government agencies which have begun to insist on Aadhaar Card for even opening a bank account and for various other purposes.

This can jeopardize the privacy and security of the citizens and no attention is being paid for safeguarding the data from hackers. We must be able to guard against hackers, particularly in the context of China and Pakistan getting into our systems all the time, and many a time succeeded. How we intend to safeguard the personal information? Not only that, we are completely blissfully unaware of the dangers of that information.

Anybody’s fingerprints can be planted anywhere because fingerprints will be available. My fingerprints can be planted; my iris impression can be planted. If that information becomes available to anyone, it will become extremely dangerous and it is precisely for this reason that a number of democratic countries have abandoned this project. Unless we can safeguard the data, only then can it be permitted to be used for the purpose for which the Act was enacted and only for the use of services.

The second point that I want to submit, Sir, is regarding removing a cap on donations and also making them anonymous. It only achieves one purpose. It manages to multiply political corruption. If that is the aim of the Finance Bill, then they must be clear about it.

The third is with regard to winding up of the Tribunals by a notification of the mere rules. There are several statutes, which will have to be amended, but in the process, what is being provided is that by virtue of the rules, the Government will decide the qualifications and the method of appointment of members.

There is no regard paid to the law which has been declared by the Supreme Court that even with regard to the appointment of the members of various Tribunals, the Courts must be consulted to ensure that they are independent and they are not the persons with questionable integrity.

In this regard, I submit that you cannot permit the delegation of essential legislative function. What will be the qualifications for the members is an essential legislative function and if it is delegated to the Government, it will amount to abdication of the legislative responsibility and I strongly oppose this. There are 27 Tribunals, and seven are sought to be shut down immediately. They can be paid three months' salaries and told to go home. That is what is left of all the Tribunals. I strongly oppose these three provisions in the Finance Bill.

 Children and women protesting Aadhaar in mid-day meals outside Shashti Bhawan on March 17.

Children and women protesting Aadhaar in mid-day meals outside Shashti Bhawan on March 17.

 

Jairam Ramesh -

I wish the amendments had been brought through normal circumstances, through procedures and a debate would have taken place. Sir, worse, this is an afterthought, this is after the Finance Bill had been introduced. This is not as if it was there in the original Finance Bill. This is an afterthought from the 1st of February to the 24th or 25th of March. (Time-bell) Sir, finally I come to Clause 56. We are going to have a debate on Aadhaar after this. I don’t want to speak much on Aadhaar.

But I have to congratulate the Finance Minister because he has forced me to do something which I had said I would never do, which is actually to get an Aadhaar number. I have to get Aadhaar number because now Aadhaar is compulsory for filing your Income Tax Returns. There are over three crore Income Tax assesses and there are over seventeen crore PAN Cards.

Now, how many of these are duplicates? How many of these are fake that you are making Aadhaar compulsory even for filing Tax Returns? I can do no better, Sir, than to bring to Finance Minister’s attention not what I am saying, not what civil society activists are saying, not what liberals are saying but what a magazine, which is fully in consonance with the Ruling Party’s philosophy, the Swarajya magazine, which is published out of Chennai, started by Great Mr.C. Rajagopalachari says.

What is the article that has appeared in the latest issue of Swarajya? “Aadhaar overreach making it a must for PAN will leave millions vulnerable.” भूपेन्दर् जी, आप इसे पिढ़ए। यह कोई यॉन रेस नहीं कह रहा है, कोई िलबरल नहीं कह रहा है। यह आप ही का वƪा, 'Îवराज्य' मैगज़ीन, जो हर हÄतेआपके समथर्न मȂिलखा करती है, वह कह रही हैिक This is overreach of Aadhaar.

चुनीभाई जी, आपनेसही कहा that we started Aadhaar but we started Aadhaar for ensuring better delivery of social services, for eliminating fake identities, for eliminating duplicate identities. Sir, I will have more scope to discuss this later on, but the fact is that this morning, as Mr. Digvijaya Singh pointed out, the headlines are ‘how Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s wife is very upset with the office of the Minister for Information Technology because Mr. Dhoni’s Aadhaar details are all available today on the internet.’

That is something we want to avoid, this is something that we want to ensure. But, I feel that by introducing Aadhaar in a whole set of activities unrelated to the purpose of Aadhaar for which Aadhaar was originally conceived by the Finance Minister then and the Prime Minister then has been completely lost.
So, Sir, in summary, may I say that this is not a Finance Bill? This is something more than a Finance Bill. This is actually an agenda for reducing Parliament to complete irrelevance, both the Houses. This is an exercise for this. When Mr. Chidambaram was the Finance Minister, he introduced a tax called Fringe Benefits Tax and it used to be called FBT. Sir, this Finance Bill is also an FBT. It is Finance Bill terrorism. Thank you. Sir.

Arun Jaitley -

Sir, Mr. Sibal made a comment with regard to Aadhaar. As far as legislation is concerned, that itself makes it clear in Section 7. As far as benefits are concerned, for the benefits, you can produce an Aadhaar card and if you don't have one, you can produce any other proof of identity

And, simultaneously apply for Aadhaar.

Fortunately, the scheme is successful, almost 98 per cent of the adults have gone in for it and I am sure, this will continue to improve. He was right on one count—let me tell him— that some of us, at some stage, had doubts. Immediately, when this Government was formed, the hon. Prime Minister organized a presentation and I was also present. I put across those doubts—some of which had been raised even by your colleagues when you were in Government—and they were answered adequately and we were candid enough to say that we accept that it was a great initiative and we expand this initiative.

We accepted that. I have no hesitation in this. But as far as tax evasion is concerned, the present Bill says, either give your Aadhaar number or give proof of the fact that you applied for it, that is all, in your tax assessment so that the possibility of a person committing tax frauds, filing through different pan cards, all that can be eliminated.
Why should we not allow this technology which was created in larger public interest to be utilized for this particular purpose? Sir, these are broadly some of the main points as far as the taxation proposals are concerned. I may only say this that while encouraging more and more people to join the tax net, the lowest slab we have reduced to 5 per cent and the idea is that more people should feel attracted enough to join.

P Chidambram -

Sir, the Finance Minister may kindly yield. He is moving on to another subject. We are grateful that you have acknowledged that Aadhaar was the initiative of the previous Government and you have expanded it. The question is, one, the purpose of Aadhaar. Aadhaar was an instrument to extend services and benefits, especially, subsidies.

Aadhaar was never intended to be tagged to income tax returns and bank accounts. But if your Government has taken a decision to tag it to income tax accounts and bank accounts, so be it. I accept it, for the time being, that maybe there are some benefits by asking it to be tagged to income tax accounts and bank accounts.

The larger question, that is being raised, and I think you should answer is, how will you protect the privacy of transactions in bank accounts? How will you protect the privacy of facts, material in the income tax returns? The Pentagon has been hacked, and five hundred million accounts have been hacked by somebody sitting in some country of Europe. What is the guarantee that you have the technology to prevent hacking of bank accounts, hacking of income tax accounts through the Aadhaar number?

The complaint of Mr. Mahendra Singh Dhoni's wife is that her Aadhaar number is being made public. Now, if Aadhaar numbers are available to a large number of authorities, what is the guarantee that using the Aadhaar number route, these accounts will not be hacked and the privacy that is required to be maintained by these accounts will not be breached? That is the question

 

ARUN JAITLEY:

I think the Pentagon got hacked even without the Aadhaar being there. ...(Interruptions)... So, the hacking doesn't take place because of Aadhaar. ...(Interruptions)... SHRI ANAND SHARMA: Sir, what is this? ...(Interruptions)... SHRI DIGVIJAYA SINGH: Sir, we didn't expect it from him. ...(Interruptions)... Sir, kindly look at this. ...(Interruptions)... SHRI P.

CHIDAMBARAM: Sir, I appeal to the Finance Minister not to trivialize the question. ...(Interruptions)... I asked him a serious question and I request him to seriously answer it. Let him not caricature my question. If you don't want to answer my question, then, say, "I don't want to answer.”

SHRI P. CHIDAMBARAM (CONTD.): Don’t caricature it, don’t trivialize it.

SHRI ARUN JAITLEY: It is a serious answer. If the firewalls can be broken and hacking can take place, then, hacking will take place anywhere. That is not a ground that hacking takes place only because Aadhaar is there. ...(Interruptions)...

SHRI DIGVIJAYA SINGH: You are making it easier. ...(Interruptions)... This is making it easier. ...(Interruptions)... MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Okay. ...(Interruptions)... Please. ...(Interruptions)... No, no. He is not yielding. ...(Interruptions)... He is not yielding. Sit down. ...(Interruptions)... Mr. Bhattacharya, please sit down. ...(Interruptions)...

SHRI ARUN JAITLEY: Mr. Chidambaram, let us assume ...(Interruptions)...

MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: He is not yielding. ...(Interruptions)...

SHRI P. CHIDAMBARAM: I am not attributing motives to the Government. I am asking as to how they will prevent it. SHRI ARUN JAITLEY: Therefore, let us assume, there is no Aadhaar, but some information which is contained in some network gets hacked or gets leaked. That is because of the technology you use there and technology, itself, can be broken into.

Therefore, the fact that technologies can be broken into, there is never an argument which is given saying, don’t have technology. Therefore, the answer is that your firewalls, that you have built around such a structure, must be strong enough.

The Aadhaar legislation has some provisions with regard to this. Now, don’t compare it with what happened yesterday to Mr. Dhoni because this was the case where some individual misconducted himself for the craze of a selfie or a photograph. And he has been blacklisted for ten years. It was an immature behavior of the person who went there. The fact is that, therefore, have a better technology. The idea, therefore, not to use technology or to go in for only obsolete method of collection of documents, is not the answer. ...(Interruptions)...

Sitaram Yechury -

Sir, I really want to know from the hon. Finance Minister that there has been a report of a particular college giving out the names and list of the students who won scholarship with their Aadhaar numbers. The Government may be unaware. I am not saying that the Government is involved in it. What I am saying is: What is the protection? What is the protection? If anybody is making public the Aadhaar number of somebody else, is there any law to prevent it? What is the protection?

SHRI ARUN JAITLEY: It comes in the Aadhaar legislation itself. ...(Interruptions)... For making it public, he can be prosecuted. These are provisions in the Aadhaar legislation itself. 

SITARAM YECHURY: That is already there. In spite of that, Sir, I am asking. And I think that is what the sentiment from there also is. What is the protection? ...(Interruptions)... What is the protection? ...(Interruptions)...

MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: He is not yielding. ...(Interruptions)...

SHRI JAIRAM RAMESH: About linking of Aadhaar with the PAN number, what I want to ask the Leader of the House is: Can you take us into confidence as to what is your broad estimate of the fake or duplicate PAN numbers in the 17 crore universe that you are dealing with? Because this must have been at the back of your mind to introduce Aadhaar. In fact, Aadhaar was optional in 2012. You have made it compulsory. You have made it compulsory now, so I want to know how serious is the fake or duplicate PAN card problem, which has forced you into this? This is the straight factual question I am asking you. ...(Interruptions)...

MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: That is okay. That is enough.

SHRI ARUN JAITLEY: Let me clarify. Technology always is a learning experience. If you recollect, when the UPA Government brought the Aadhaar legislation, the legislation, itself, only dealt with the manner in which the cards are going to be issued. The law was never finally passed, but that was the draft law. What do you do with that Aadhaar card? The legislation did not mention that.

SHRI ARUN JAITLEY (CONTD.): As we learn from the benefit of that technology and the strength of that technology, can it be used to make sure that benefits are not misused? Can we make it for direct benefit transfer? Can we use it for detecting any form of tax misrepresentation, or, frauds? Now these are all areas where we are now expanding into.

I share the concern of the hon. Members and that is why there is a provision in the Act that privacy norms must be maintained, and it can’t be made public. So, if anybody in the list of successful candidates makes Aadhaar number public, then, he is guilty of the violation of that particular Act.

But the fact that somebody in Ranchi, or, somewhere else has violated it, let us not discredit the technology, as a whole, itself. Sir, my final point is: we have reduced the first slab in order to make sure that there is an incentive for more people to join.

We tried to encourage the MSME sector. We have also tried to encourage the housing sector in certain areas of investment. We are also trying to discourage cash transactions to the extent that is possible. These are various provisions which we have brought in. I would urge this hon. House , therefore, to support these provisions as far as the Finance Bill is concerned. Thank you very much, Sir. That is all I have to say.

CLAUSE 56 -- INSERTION OF NEW SECTION 139AA; QUOTING OF AADHAAR NUMBER DR. T. SUBBARAMI REDDY (ANDHRA PRADESH):

Sir, I just want to say a few words before moving my Amendments. I have submitted notice for these two Amendments which are similar in nature. I am proposing the date of making Aadhaar Card compulsory from 1 st December, 2017, instead of 1st July, 2017. The idea is that the income tax assesses should be given sufficient time for linking their Aadhaar Cards while filing their returns. Sir, even the Supreme Court has said that it should not be made mandatory. However, the Government is making it. You are, now, making it compulsory from Financial Year 2016-17. So, I am moving my amendments. Sir, I move:

(2) That the Rajya Sabha recommends to the Lok Sabha that the following amendment be made in the Finance Bill, 2017, as passed by Lok Sabha, namely;- "That at page 27, line 43, for the figures and words "1st day of July, 2017" the figures and words "1st day of December, 2017" be substituted." (3) That the Rajya Sabha recommends to the Lok Sabha that the following amendment be made in the Finance Bill, 2017, as passed by Lok Sabha, namely;- "That at page 28, line 6, for the figures and words "1st day of July, 2017 the figures and words "1st day of December, 2017" be substituted."