Sunday, March 20, 2011

Guest Post: National Identification Authority of India Bill

It is my pleasure to publish yet another guest post from the folks at the Pre-Legislative Briefing Service.
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As our fourth project, at the Pre-Legislative Briefing Service (PLBS), after the Nuclear Liability Bill, The Prevention of Torture Bill & the Legal Practitioner’s Bill, we have studied and prepared a ‘Briefing Document on the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 (NIAI)’. (The document can be accessed over here).

The Bill which seeks to regulate the implementation of the Central Government’s ambitious Unique Identity (UID) program has been drafted by the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) which is headed by Nadan Nilekani and introduced in the Rajya Sabha on the 8th of November, 2010 by the Prime Minister in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Planning Commission. (The text of the Bill can be accessed over here). The Bill has been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance headed by BJP leader Mr. Yashwant Sinha.
The ‘Briefing Document’ covers four main issues:

(a) Privacy Safeguards in Clause 33: This section examines the scope of ‘privacy rights’ in India and compares the privacy safeguards in the NIAI Bill with other legislations like the Income Tax Act, the Information Technology Act and the Criminal Procedure Code.

(b) ‘Excessive Delegation’: This section of the report examines how the proposed Bill delegates certain ‘essential legislative functions’ to the Authority itself. One such example if the delegation of the power to define ‘identity information’ & ‘biometric information’ despite the fact that the UIDAI strategy document defines both concepts in precise terms.

(c) Interplay with Information Technology Act, 2001: Given that most of the offences under the proposed NIAI Bill deal with misuse or intentional breach of the Authority’s computer resources there is potential for an overlap with the IT Act, 2001. The focus therefore is to ensure a minimal overlap.

(d) Independent Grievance Redressal Mechanism: The Bill delegates the function of setting up a grievance redressal mechanism to the Authority itself. Given the importance of the aadhaar number scheme to future social security schemes, it is crucial that the grievance redressal mechanism be created by the Parliament itself, since the Central Government bureaucracy is loath to regulate itself.
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