Telecom operators have said that Aadhaar number was never mandatory for new mobile connections but used only for the re-verification process of old subscribers, as per Department of Telecommunications norms, which still stand. Telcos added the recent reports quoting Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan saying companies can also accept other modes of identification proofs besides Aadhaar for issuing new connections has led to more confusion for them. “We never told our new customers that Aadhaar was mandatory. So, now we do not know if the secretary means for verifying new customers or re-verifying old ones. This has definitely led to confusion…,” said an official at one of the operators told Economic Times.
A DoT official also confirmed the same saying that Aadhaar was never mandatory but was one of the documents that consumers had to give for new connections. It was back in 2016 that telecom department told operators to accept Aadhaar as one of the documents to register new customers.
The confusion arose after media reports that Sundararajan said companies had been directed to issue new SIM cards without Aadhaar on the basis of alternative identification such as election voter ID or driving license.
“As per rule, fresh connections can be given using any authentic ID and address proof. There is no change in that rule. Telecom operators cannot deny fresh SIM to people having valid ID and address proof document. For re-verification, we have to wait for Supreme Court order as the matter is sub-judice,” Sundararajan had said.
Officials at the telcos asking not to be named say they have no new instructions from the government on the matter. They clarified Aadhaar was a preferred mode of verification for new users as it made the process easier and faster, but it wasn’t the only mode as other IDs including driving licenses and passports are also accepted.
However, an official told that SIM-Aadhaar linking policy still stands and those who have issued SIMs on the basis of other IDs than Aadhaar will be required to undergo re-verification through Aadhaar based e-KYC at later point. With the issue of Aadhaar being debated in the Supreme Court, there have been a lot of confusion, especially since Supreme Court clarified they had never passed any rule for making Aadhaar mandatory. Also, the DoT earlier extended the deadline for re-verification of mobile numbers through Aadhaar till the apex court decides of the constitutional validity of Aadhaar law.