Amid lack of clarity, Aadhaar can still get you a mobile SIM Over three days after the Supreme Court barred private companies from using Aadhaar to validate the identity of customers, the 12-digit unique ID number remains an option for e-verification while seeking a new mobile phone connection amid lack of clarity all around on the implementation of the order.

ET spoke to retailers of major operators in major cities such as Mumbai and Delhi, who said nothing has changed on the ground:

remains an option to purchase a , and also for biometric verification for eKYC, or electronic-know your customer. “We have not got any instructions so far (from telcos). So, we are continuing to do what we have been doing,” said a Mumbai-based retailer of one of the mobile phone companies.

Officials at the mobile phone companies, who asked not to be named, said they can’t issue any direction to retailers to make any changes to the subscriber onboarding process without specific instructions from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). “We cannot make any changes till the DoT tells us to do,” said a senior executive in one of the three major operators.

Amid lack of clarity, Aadhaar can still get you a mobile SIM
“The fact that one can still do an everification through the Aadhaar database indicates that UIDAI hasn’t still closed the tap on the biometric process. So, why should we change anything,” said an executive at another telco.

Carriers, meanwhile, have said they would send their concerns to the government in three weeks and seek directions on what they should do in the face of the apex court order last Thursday.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which runs the Aadhaar project, said each needs to adapt to the order, but that it can’t be issuing any directions or is not involved in directing any changes that a specific needs to make. The DoT itself is still not clear on the road ahead. In fact, the department has said it plans to officials at the UIDAI and the law ministry to ensure implementation of the SC order.

It also wants to find out if the Aadhaar-based biometric verification can still be used if a person so wishes.

All mobile phone companies use the Aadhaar number for instantaneous customer verification, which helps to activate a new connection in less than an hour. This compares to 5-7 days through the earlier process of physical verification in the pre-Aadhaar era.

While the Aadhaar-based e-KYC was changed to voluntary from mandatory after a previous SC clarification, over 90% of new subscriptions come using the unique ID due to factors such as convenience, though some it on fears around privacy and leakage.

Over 500 million, or some 50%, of India’s mobile phone user base, have linked their Aadhaar to their phone number.

And as things stand, customer of operators are still telling potential subscribers that they can get a new connection using any address proof for verification but will need to produce Aadhaar for their eKYC. “After the order, it is quite clear that from e-KYC, we will have to move towards the regular KYC, which is based on a physical form used to get subscriber details but that process has not started yeT,” said another senior executive.

Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) and Vodafone Idea did not respond to ET’s queries.

Mobile phone companies have said the court verdict would lead to delays in getting phone connections and increase the cost of customer acquisition, in some cases by as much as times.

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