The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is treading cautiously after a set of notices dispatched recently to residents of Hyderabad led to a huge furore. The Hyderabad regional office, for the first time ever, acted on information shared by Telangana police on local Aadhar card holders. Based on the police reports, which said that these residents were illegal immigrants who submitted false documents, the UIDAI sent notices to 87 people, mostly staying in and around Hyderabad and asked them to appear before the officials. What could have passed off as a routine measure of UIDAI, grabbed eyeballs because of the tone of the notice which laid stress on the citizenship aspect of the card holders.
The notice starts off with the line “Whereas this Office has received a complaint/ allegation that you are not an Indian National….” One of the contents of the notice also reads, “You are hereby directed to appear before the…… with all the necessary documents in original to prove all your claims of citizenship and, if you are not an Indian national, to prove that you have entered the territory of India legally…”
The lawyers representing the card holders who were served notices, activists and politicians took objection to UIDAI trying to ascertain the citizenship of the residents. According to higher officials of UIDAI, the notice has been misconstrued leading to criticism and confusion.
“We only wanted them to show us the proofs they had submitted for obtaining Aadhaar cards. Since the police department had informed us that they are illegal immigrants passing off as Indian citizens, UIDAI wants to verify and re-check their documents to make sure that they had not fraudulently got Aadhaar cards. They have been given a chance to appear and explain their case. UIDAI is not the authority to decide the citizenship status of any individual,” said a UIDAI official.
From now on, the UIDAI officials are contemplating changing the template of the notices so as to prevent any controversies. According to one official, the notices will be “very clear and easy to understand”. Though the Hyderabad Region Office had sent out the notices based on police reports for the first time, there have been similar actions by UIDAI in other states. The issue got highlighted after Hyderabad based lawyers took objection to the notices.
According to Aadhaar Act, any person who has stayed in India for 182 days in the previous one year is eligible to apply for Aadhaar. The ID is given out for three categories of people, Indian citizens, NRIs and foreigners with valid visa. According to a Supreme Court judgment, Aadhaar cards cannot be issued to illegal immigrants.
Even as the spotlight is on UIDAI’s clarification and the scathing criticism it received for its approach, a number of people in the police radar could not be contacted by the UIDAI. The UIDAI got the police report on 127 people out of which notices were sent out to 87. Among them only 35 received the notices. It was found that the addresses of 52 people were incorrect. Some of those who got notices, from minority community and working as daily wage workers, had said that they had all necessary documents to prove that they were citizens of this country with no criminal history.
The UIDAI is all set to hear these cases in May.