Airtel barred from conducting Aadhaar-SIM linking and e-KYC verification as UIDAI investigates opening of illegal Payments Bank accounts

Bharti Airtel has come under the scrutiny of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) after customers of the telecom service alleged that Airtel Payments Bank accounts were opened in their name without their consent. The UIDAI has now barred Airtel from conducting any Aadhaar-SIM linking activities as well as Aadhaar-based e-KYC verification for Airtel Payments Bank customers.

The statutory authority on Aadhar has also reportedly suspended Airtel’s e-KYC licence as a result of these allegations and an investigation it conducted last month.

Airtel has allegedly been using the Aadhaar-eKYC SIM verification process to open new Payments Bank accounts for its customers without their explicit consent. The UIDAI has also frowned upon the suggested linking of these Payment Bank accounts with LPG subsidies. Airtel customers have reported that their LPG subsidies were somehow being credited to their Airtel Payments Bank accounts, which were earlier linked to their savings bank accounts.

The UIDAI has reportedly been investigating Bharti Airtel for violations of the Aadhaar Act for over a month now, and has also sent several notices to the telco which received unsatisfactory responses. The Aadhaar authority might also consider penalising Airtel with a heavy fine for illegally using the e-KYC verification process to dupe customers into signing up for a Payments Bank account.

Reports suggest that over 23 lakh Airtel customers have received as much as Rs 47 Crore in their Airtel Payments Bank accounts, the existence of which was unknown to them.

As a result of UIDAI’s action, Airtel will not be able to link any mobile SIMs with Aadhaar numbers of customers and customers will also not be able to open any new Airtel Payments Bank accounts using Aadhaar-eKYC verification.

“The lapses are serious in nature. Prima facie, it is a criminal breach of trust and contract, and there are violations of provisions of the Aadhaar Act 2016,” a source close to the matter told ToI.

If found guilty of the practice, Bharti Airtel could be facing a fine of Rs 1 Lakh per day and a termination of its authentication user agreement with UIDAI, or worse, its Payments Bank license.

Responding to the UIDAI order, Airtel said in a statement, “We can confirm that we have received interim order from the UIDAI regarding temporary suspension of Aadhaar linked e-KYC services till their satisfaction on certain processes relating to Airtel payment banks onboarding of customers.”

Apart from customer allegations, the UIDAI has also noted that when the Airtel app is opened, it presents a pre-checked user agreement to “Upgrade or create my Airtel Payment Bank wallet using existing Airtel mobile KYC.” Customers mostly click on this consent unknowingly and this practice is also considered a violation of the Aadhaar Act.

The UIDAI has now ordered an audit of Bharti Airtel and its Payments Bank arm to get to the bottom of these allegations.

Airtel Payments Bank was launched back in January this year. It eliminates paperwork for opening accounts by using Aadhaar card and biometric authentication for sign up process. Since it’s a digital banking platform, the phone number becomes the account number of the user. In September, Airtel Payments Bank also became the first digital bank to integrate the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) on the platform.


SC pushes back date for linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts, SIM cards, welfare schemes to Mar 31

New Delhi, Dec. 15 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Friday extended till March 31 next year the deadline for mandatory linking of the Aadhaar biometric identification number with various services and welfare schemes.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in an interim order, also modified its earlier order with regard to linking of Aadhaar with mobile services and said the deadline of February 6 next year for this purpose also stood extended till March 31.

Others on the bench were Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan. The bench said that for opening new bank accounts, an applicant will not be required to provide Aadhaar number to the bank.

However, the applicant will have to show the bank that he or she has applied for the Aadhaar number, Justice Chandrachud, who wrote the unanimous interim order, said.

The apex court said the Constitution Bench would begin the final hearing from January 17 on the petition challenging the Aadhaar scheme itself.

On Thursday, Attorney General K. K. Venugopal had submitted before the top court that the deadline of mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes can also be extended upto March 31 next year.

Recently, a nine-judge constitution bench of the apex court had held that Right to Privacy was a Fundamental Right under the Constitution. Several petitioners challenging the validity of Aadhaar had claimed it violated privacy rights.

Some petitioners in the top court have termed the linking of the Aadhaar, issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India, with bank accounts and mobile numbers as “illegal and unconstitutional”.

Goa Crime Branch opposes pre-arrest bail plea of activist Aires Rodrigues

The Goa Crime Branch today objected to the anticipatory bail application filed by social activist Aires Rodrigues, who is facing a case of sexual harassment.

Principal Sessions Judge Irshad Agha heard the plea today and adjourned the hearing to December 11. A woman has accused Rodrigues of ‘sexually harassing’ her and outraging her modesty by posting her picture on Facebook and linking her to an alleged sex scandal involving state minister Vinod Paliencar. Paliencar has denied involvement in the scandal.

The woman lodged a case with Anjuna police on November 27, which was later transferred to the Crime Branch.

Opposing the plea, inspector Dattaguru Sawant told the court here in a written submission today that the crime was “evil in nature” and the accused wasn’t cooperating with the investigating agency and did not appear before it when summoned.

Investigation in the case was at a preliminary stage, the Crime Branch official said.

Adjourning the hearing to Monday, the court ordered the Crime Branch, which had summoned Rodrigues at 3 pm today, to reschedule his appearance for the next week.


Legendary actor Shashi Kapoor passes away

Veteran actor-producer Shashi Kapoor died on Monday here, his nephew and actor Randhir Kapoor said. He was 79.

Shashi Kapoor is survived by daughter Sanjana Kapoor and his two sons Kunal and Karan.

Son of Prithviraj Kapoor and brother of Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor, Shashi debuted with the 1961 film Dharmputra. He went on to appear in 116 Hindi films. He was honoured with the the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2011. In 2015, he was bestowed with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, making him the third member of the Kapoor clan to receive the honour, after dad Prithviraj Kapoor and brother Raj Kapoor.

Shashi and his wife Jennifer Kendal established the Prithvi Theatre in November 1978 in Mumbai. Jennifer died of cancer in 1984.


Delhi: Woman groped, masturbated at in Connaught Place

In a shocking incident, a 32-year-old teacher working at a private institute was allegedly molested and masturbated at on the terrace of a building in Delhi’s Connaught Place on Thursday.

According to the Indian Express report, the DCP of New Delhi B K Singh said they were trying to identify the perpetrator “on the basis of certain clues” that the woman had provided. The victim reported that the man wore spectacles, a hooded jacket and spoke in English.

The accused man who was in his mid-twenties had bolted the door on the terrace before sexually abusing her at around 10:00 am.

“A man, who was also there, pretended to be on the phone and started pacing back and forth. I noticed he was staring at me and it made me really uncomfortable, so I asked him if there was a problem. He said no and just kept standing near me… Then, suddenly, he groped me. I pushed him and threatened to call the police if he did not back off,” the woman was quoted as saying by the English Daily.

The man then unzipped his pants, grabbed and masturbated at her.

“I pushed him and went to the door, only to realise that he had already bolted it. I did not want to turn my back towards him, so keeping my back towards the door, I tried to unbolt it. I screamed and he pushed me against the door… I shouted again and he snatched my phone, so I ran towards the adjoining terrace,” she added.

The people who were working in the office below heard her screams and came out, she said, while the accused had fled the scene.

The police registered a case under IPC sections 354 (criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 342 (wrongful confinement), 356 (theft) and 379 (punishment for theft).

Victim traumatised

The incident has left the victim traumatised. She has refused to enter or exit the building without being escorted by a male friend, said a Hindustan Times report.

“If he could follow me all the way to the terrace, bolt the door and sexually abuse me, he could have done anything. He could have harmed me more had I not screamed out to my colleagues for help,” the woman told HT.

“I have requested a colleague friend to be by my side the entire time when I come to work and leave. Only when the police are able to identify him and put him behind bars, will I feel any safer,” she added.

Goa: Loudspeakers banned on Muslim burial ground

Panaji (Goa) [India], Dec 1 (ANI): The City Corporation of Panaji (CCP) recently banned the recital of prayers via a loudspeaker/public address system at one of the largest Muslim burial grounds in the city.

Based on a plea from the residents of St Inez, the CCP issued a notice stating that the prayer services at the Muslim burial ground should not be conducted by using a loudspeaker.

The notice reads, “Residents of the surrounding localities at St Inez have brought it to his attention that prayers are being conducted through loudspeakers at very high decibel levels at the burial ground of Muslims at St Inez.”

The CCP Commissioner, Ajit Roy, said that they had received complaints of prayers being performed on loudspeakers in the burial ground.

Speaking to media here, CCP Commissioner Ajit Roy said, “Muslim leaders told us prayers are done on loudspeakers only in mosques and if it’s being done in burial ground, it’s wrong. They asked us to issue public notice so that people know and take note that someone is doing something which is unacceptable in that community”.

“There is a Hindu crematorium and Christian cemetery beside the burial ground in St Inez. We received complaints that prayers are performed in the burial ground on loudspeakers. So we held a meeting with all religious leaders on this matter,” he said.

Meanwhile, this diktat by the CCP has been criticized by the Jamat Ul Muslamia Gausia Sunni Trust of St Inez saying that prayers are conducted at the mosque and not at the burial ground. The CCP commissioner can visit the mosque and verify it for himself. (ANI)

Goa NGO demands arrest of Aires Rodrigues in Siolim lady case, Aires says he is innocent

A group of women lead by Vasco based NGO held a protest outside Panaji police station demanding arrest of Advocate Aires Rodrigues. Aires Rodrigues was on Monday night booked by police for alleged sexual harassment, defamation and insulting the modesty of a woman from Siolim through social media posts. An effigy of Aires was burn by protesting women.

Meanwhile Advocate Aires appeared before the Anjuna police station . Police registered statement of Aires. “I have given my detailed statement answering all the queries. I once again reiterate that I have not violated any law whatsoever. The investigation by the police will reveal the truth,” Aires said.