“Important Alert! As per Govt’s directive, it is mandatory to link Aadhaar to your Mobile. To avoid disconnection of services on your number, please walkin to the nearest store today.”
How often do you get this message or similar texts from your telecom operator these days? This is how different telecom operators, including Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, among others, have been bombarding their consumers with messages to link their SIM cards with Aadhaar, despite an interim order by the Supreme Court states that Aadhaar enrolment could not be made mandatory.
Many customers have complained that some operators have told them that their numbers would be disconnected if the verification is not "immediately completed", reports The Times of India.
The customers have claimed that the telecom companies cite a directive from the Department of Telecom to re-verify all existing connections with Aadhaar by February 6, 2018. Interestingly, even the DoT circular gives time until next February.
The companies are citing a March 6 DoT circular to push this process. The circular in turn refers to an order delivered by the Supreme Court on February 6 in a public interest litigation that sought a thorough customer verification process to ensure that mobile numbers are not misused for illegal activities, including terrorism.
However, the notification citing the Supreme Court directions seems to be a case of obfuscation on part of the Centre. As it turns out, the court order did not make such linking mandatory.
Why this rush?
"We need about 8.5 lakh connections to be re-verified every day over the next 120 days,” a Vodafone spokesperson told ToI, adding that by the end of September, 50% of its 21-croreplus customers have complied.
These companies are spending nearly Rs 1,000 crore to re-verify a total of 110 crore mobile connections, said Rajan Mathews, director-general of industry body COAI.
Lawrence Liang is professor, School of Law, Governance and Citizenship at Ambedkar University, Delhi, wrote in an article for India Today: “It's curious that this increasing insistence comes in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's recent ruling in the privacy judgment where a nine-judge bench has unequivocally affirmed that the right to privacy is a fundamental right in India. While the privacy judgment itself does not say anything about Aadhaar, it has to be remembered that the judgment came out of a reference made during the hearing of cases challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar.”
(With PTI inputs)