UIDAI allows Airtel Aadhaar-based verification till March 31
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has granted a temporary extension to India's largest telecom operator, Bharti Airtel, to conduct Aadhaar based re-verification of its mobile subscribers, till March 31.
The Aadhaar-issuing body has, however, not lifted the ongoing suspension on Airtel Payments Bank's eKYC licence, sources privy to the development told PTI here.
The extension is "subject to compliance of activation conditions laid down by the UIDAI", said a source.
A further view would be taken on the matter on February 10 after taking into account the final report of the auditor, Department of Telecom, and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as well as the compliance status report.
An Airtel spokesperson, in an email response, said: "We can confirm that the UIDAI has permitted Bharti Airtel to continue Aadhaar based e-KYC till March 31, 2018, subject to compliance to guidelines laid down by the authority."
Both Airtel and Airtel Payments bank drew flak after the Sunil Mittal-led firm allegedly opened payments bank accounts of its mobile phone subscribers without seeking their "informed consent", and LPG subsidy worth crores was deposited into these accounts.
In a strong action on December 16, the government and the UIDAI temporarily barred the company from conducting Aadhaar- based SIM verification of mobile customers using eKYC process, and e-KYC of payments bank clients.
On December 21, it allowed Airtel to use Aadhaar for re- verification of its mobile customers till January 10 with stiff riders. The reprieve was given keeping in mind the convenience of customers and also the impending March 31 deadline given by the Supreme Court for mobile SIM re- verification.
The breather in December came only after the company returned Rs 138 crore LPG subsidy that had flowed into unsolicited payment bank accounts.
UIDAI had then asserted that the relief was contingent on Airtel restricting its e-KYC and authentication service only for re-verification and issuance of SIM cards.
The telecom major -- with over 282 million mobile subscribers -- was also not allowed to leverage that for obtaining consent of the Aadhaar holder for opening bank accounts, wallet, Direct to Home (DTH) or any other goods or services.
"We continue to engage with the authorities and have addressed all concerns that they have raised. Compliance to all guidelines is of paramount importance to us and we remain committed to this," the Airtel spokesperson said.
The UIDAI had also asked both RBI and DoT to conduct an audit of systems, processes, applications, documentations followed by Bharti Airtel "to ensure that the company is in compliance with their licence conditions".
Moreover, to avoid a repeat of Bharti Airtel-type fiasco, the UIDAI last month also directed banks to seek an explicit consent of the beneficiary before changing the account to which the government subsidy is being remitted.