Aadhaar not compulsory for mobile SIM anymore

Here’s some good news for consumers struggling to get a mobile phone SIM without an Aadhaar card. The government has issued instructions to operators to accept alternative identification documents such as driving licence, passport and voter ID card. Mobile companies have been asked to follow the instructions “immediately” so that consumers are not inconvenienced, said telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan.

The Supreme Court has already clarified that Aadhaar is not mandatory for getting SIM cards until it takes a final view. “The ministry has issued instructions to all telecom companies, asking them not to deny a SIM card to any individual who does not have an Aadhaar number. We have asked them to accept other forms of KYC (know your customer) documents, and continue to issue SIM cards,” Sundararajan said.

Mobile companies had been insisting on verification through Aadhaar, based on earlier instructions given by the telecom department. While the telecom ministry insisted that it had given such instructions only after observations of the SC in the Lokniti Foundation case, the top court recently clarified that it had not given any such orders.

The Aadhaar issue had not only impacted local residents, but even NRIs and foreigners visiting the country. Since the majority of such individuals did not have an Aadhaar card, retailers of mobile companies had started denying them SIM cards. Mobile operators have so far refused to comment on the matter. However, official sources said the government has taken it very seriously.

“This kind of a denial by retailers is completely uncalled for when there is no legal basis to enforce it. Such practices will not be tolerated,” a senior official said. It is also understood that the government has asked mobile companies to “take it easy” on the issue of reverification of mobile numbers with Aadhaar. With the Supreme Court extending the deadline for this indefinitely (until its final decision), the government feels that there is no merit for mobile operators to “unnecessarily push” their subscribers on the matter.

Until last week, mobile companies had been bombarding customers with calls, messages and other such unsolicited communication, asking them to link their phone number with Aadhaar. They had said that they were “simply complying” with the government’s previous directive on the matter. 

“The communication is still being sent to cellphone users to encourage them to re-verify their mobile connections. However, no last date for completion of this exercise is to be mentioned in such communication… All the telecom companies are adhering to telecom ministry guidelines. Hence, they continue to send communication to subscribers to re-verify their mobile connections without mentioning any last date,” Rajan Mathews, director-general of industry body COAI, had said.