Aadhaar Biometric Authentication: Telecom Bill 2023: Will Aadhaar biometric authentication be mandatory for new SIM cards soon?


Biometric authentication for mobile SIM cards now? The Telecommunication Bill of 2023 has passed both houses of Parliament and is now awaiting the President’s assent to become law. Once enacted, this legislation is set to bring about a substantial change in the procedure for obtaining new mobile numbers.
According to an ET report, the bill specifies that the necessary identification to buy mobile SIM cards would be ‘biometric’. Presently, biometric identification for KYC purposes relies solely on an individual’s Aadhaar number. As a result, it seems reasonable to deduce that an individual without Aadhaar may not be able to purchase a new SIM card.
Upcoming changes: Aadhaar authentication for mobile users?
The expected process for getting a new mobile number may now involve giving your Aadhaar number and going through biometric authentication, unless the government specifies otherwise. It’s important to note that the new law also applies biometric authentication to current mobile number users.
According to the bill, any authorised entity offering telecommunication services, as specified by the Central Government, must identify individuals using a biometric-based method that can be verified. The exact details of this identification method will be specified in rules to be announced later.
Although the precise details of the biometric authentication method and the affected telecommunication services will be known only after the rules are set, it is currently known that Aadhaar is the only ID proof for biometric authentication. As a result, having Aadhaar is likely to become a mandatory requirement for mobile SIM card holders in the near future, the ET report said.
Abhay Chattopadhyay, a Partner at Economic Laws Practice, underscores the strict subscriber verification guidelines. He highlights that the new law requires Telecommunication Service Providers (TSPs) to perform ‘biometric-based identification’ for all potential subscribers.
“Considering that this requirement appears to water down the aforesaid decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, but it is reasonable to presume that this provision will undergo further judicial scrutiny, wherein, Section 3 (7) of the Act will have to fall within the parameters of the Puttaswamy judgment. The onus of the government will be to demonstrate the basis to include this mandate considering that the 2022 Bill required TSPs to unequivocally identify the person to whom it provides services, through a verifiable mode of identification as may be prescribed, as compared to the Act that now stipulates that TSPs will be required to use any “verifiable biometric based identification”, which is evidently, Aadhaar,” he said.
Manmeet Kaur, a Partner at Karanjawala & Co., points out that biometric authentication will be necessary for services specified by the Central Government. She offers a cautious reminder of the Supreme Court’s perspective on the linking of Aadhaar with mobile numbers.
The new law, which replaces the outdated Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 and related regulations, includes provisions for user protection. It requires obtaining prior consent for specific messages and imposes penalties for non-compliance. There’s a proposed ‘Do Not Disturb’ register to prevent users from receiving certain messages without consent. Telecom companies are also tasked with setting up mechanisms for reporting malware and unsolicited messages.


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