Govt makes Aadhaar mandatory for company directors before SC verdict

The Modi government has stipulated that all company directors must update their DIN (Director Identification Number) number by furnishing their Aadhaar details by August 31

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Raman Swamy

For company directors who do not have an Aadhaar number, ‘Bure DIN aa gaye”.  The Modi government has quietly made Aadhaar mandatory for Board members of all limited liability companies - thereby blindsiding the Supreme Court and pre-empting the much-anticipated verdict in the Aadhaar case.

DIN (Director Identification Number) is the unique 8-digit number that is required for any existing or proposed Director of all registered companies.  The government has stipulated that all company directors must update their DIN number by furnishing their Aadhaar details by August 31.

A directive by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has laid down the mandatory personal verification requirements for company director from now on.  Personal data required includes - Name (as per PAN database), Father’s Name (as per PAN database), Date of Birth (as per PAN database), PAN Number (mandatory for citizens of India), Aadhaar Number (mandatory for citizens of India), Personal Mobile number, Personal Email Address, Permanent address and/or Present address as the case may be.

Ostensibly aimed at detecting shell companies, the government has sought to justify the directive as a process to re-authenticate KYC data.  However, no explanation has been given for the surreptitious inclusion of Aadhaar number in the Form that has to be submitted by August 31.

On the contrary, the directive warns that after the deadline date, the government will “deactivate” the DIN of those directors who have not yet completed their KYC.

 Govt makes Aadhaar mandatory for company directors before SC verdict

Civil liberty activists who have been campaigning against imposition of compulsory Aadhaar are dismayed - they see it as an attempt to bring in the controversial biometric verification regime through the back-door.

This has sent shock-waves through corporate circles and chartered accountant firms alike, with legal experts also raising the red flag. “This is nothing but Aadhaar by stealth,” said a lawyer who is involved in the petitions pending before the Supreme Court.  “It also appears to be tantamount to Contempt of Court,” he added, pointing to the fact that the matter is still up before a five-judge Constitution Bench.

The Bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, had on May 10 reserved the verdict on the multiple pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Centre’s Aadhaar scheme after a hearing that had gone on for 38 days.

All concerned are still avidly waiting for the final judgment, which many think could be delivered any time now,  perhaps in the next few weeks.

Last week there was a hint that the judges may have already gone through the voluminous material and perhaps even come to a conclusion. This indication came in the form of a cryptic sentence uttered by the Chief Justice - “I do not think that it is required”.

The Chief Justice said this when approached by Attorney General KK Venugopal, who wanted to submit and place on record the full report of the Srikrishna committee on data protection.

By firmly rejecting the Centre’s offer to submit the new material, the Chief Justice was (in the opinion of many in the legal fraternity) effectively signaling that the judges had enough material before them already and no new inputs were required.  The obvious implication of this would be that a verdict in the case is imminent.

Incidentally, the Justice Srikrishna report, submitted to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology just recently, has recommended several measures for  protecting personal information of citizens, the role and duties of data processors and the rights of individuals. It has also made suggestions regarding penalties for violation of these data protection measures.

That apart, apprehension is growing in political and human rights circles that the government has already taken several irreversible steps to thrust biometric verification rules for all citizens in every sphere of life and activity.

There are clear signs that this is being done in an arbitrary manner disregarding what the apex court may decide on the core issue of whether compulsory Aadhaar is justified in areas other than welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of society.

The Court is also expected to clearly spell out the safeguards and parameters necessary to ensure that the Fundamental Right to Privacy of citizens is not violated or infringed in any way by draconian imposition of mandatory Aadhaar.

Another crucial and sensitive dimension relates to misuse of personal data by private companies and service providers, both Indian and foreign.  Despite the Supreme Court’s clear-cut orders that till the pronouncement of the final verdict there should be no pressure exerted on Aadhaar registration, various banks,  telephone companies, credit card providers and others have been routinely nagging their customers about Aadhaar verification.

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