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The Hindu
The Hindu
Vikas Dhoot

Fresh advisory soon on Aadhaar as date of birth proof

To avoid inconvenience to the public and government schemes’ beneficiaries and quell a sense of anxiety about a recent directive to cease the usage of Aadhaar as a ‘date of birth’ proof, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is likely to issue a clarification soon that those relying on the ID proof for age may do so after undertaking a ‘risk-based assessment’.

The reliance on Aadhaar, a biometric-linked identification proof, has become ubiquitous in recent years, with linkages to taxpayers’ PAN cards, provident fund and bank accounts, among others. The Unique ID (UID), as it is also known, is a critical element for effecting direct benefit transfers to millions of government welfare scheme beneficiaries, using what the Centre calls ‘the JAM (Jan Dhan bank accounts, Aadhaar, and Mobile Phones) trinity’.

Also read | Centre ‘deactivating’ Aadhaar cards to stop people from getting social benefits: Mamata

High Court judgments

The UIDAI, in a December 2023 missive, asked all agencies that use Aadhaar to authenticate identities to delete it from the list of acceptable documents for verifying a person’s date of birth. The authority said this was an iteration of its stated position and had been highlighted by different High Court judgments. Now, Aadhaar ID cards come with a prominent disclaimer that they are “a proof of identity, not of citizenship or date of birth.”

Responding to a query on the issue, Finance Secretary T.V. Somanathan said: “I am certain that Central ministries will work out an appropriate arrangement to see that the public and beneficiaries of various schemes are not adversely affected.”

A senior Electronics and IT Ministry official indicated to The Hindu that the UIDAI would not withdraw the directive but would soon issue an advisory for agencies that rely on Aadhaar authentication for welfare benefits and KYC (Know Your Customer) compliance purposes.

“The UIDAI circular in question reflects and reiterates our stance that an Aadhaar number can be used to establish the identity of an individual subject to authentication and is not per se a proof of date of birth. However, the UIDAI is likely to issue a clarification, putting the onus on user agencies to accept the date entered into Aadhaar records or verify it further, with the emphasis being on risk-based assessment,” the official said, requesting anonymity owing to the sensitivity of the issue.

“The birthdate and even the address mentioned in Aadhaar are only a reasonable assessment of the age and location of an individual, based on documents provided at the time of enrolment. But it cannot be construed as foolproof evidence for either of those details… it is up to the concerned entity to decide whether to accept them or seek more documents after assessing the risks involved in their use cases for Aadhaar authentication,” the official explained.

The date of birth can be verified by using documents such as birth certificates or school-leaving certificates, wherever knowing the precise age is critical, be it opening a bank account for a minor or a senior citizen, or transferring pension benefits, he pointed out. Even a passport or driving licence can be used to confirm a person’s age.

Following the UIDAI communiqué, some entities like the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) have already scrapped Aadhaar’s use as birthdate proof, while other departments and user agencies are still evaluating the impact. Central Board of Direct Taxes chairman Nitin Gupta said Aadhaar is linked to about 59 crore PAN cards and issues arising from the UIDAI diktat would be assessed.

Revenue Secretary Sanjay Malhotra noted that Aadhaar is being used for registrations under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime as well, but the date of birth is not vital in those cases. “For date of birth, generally in government, it is the birth certificate or the class X passing certificate that works,” he said.

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