The New Aadhaar Regulations Grant the UIDAI Unchecked Power, And Offer Little Convenience to Users

20 November 2016
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which drafted regulations for the Aadhaar act, had a moral obligation to factor in the convenience of citizens and accountability of the UIDAI and its agents. But the regulations fail on all these accounts.
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The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which drafted regulations for the Aadhaar act, had a moral obligation to factor in the convenience of citizens and accountability of the UIDAI and its agents. But the regulations fail on all these accounts.
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On 14 September 2016, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the authority responsible for issuing and authenticating Aadhaar numbers, notified five regulations on the issuance and administration of Aadhaar numbers. Unfortunately, the regulations, which were meant to clarify the implementation process of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, are surprisingly vague.

In order to understand the problem with the regulations, it is necessary to understand the practice of delegated legislation. When the parliament enacts legislation, it usually concentrates on substantial legal and policy issues while delegating the procedural specifics to the government, which then creates the procedure for implementation through delegated legislation called rules or regulations. The problem in India is that, since most legislation is drafted by the government, it tends to delegate extensive powers to the government itself.

Simply put, the bureaucrats who actually run the government enjoy wide discretion and little accountability in how they implement parliamentary legislation. The Right to Information Act, 2005 is a perfect example of this problem. The act lays down the nature of the right to information, but the specifics of its implementation are delegated to various public authorities such as the state governments and high courts. Several of these authorities, especially the judiciary have abused this delegated power to specify prohibitively high RTI fees for filing an RTI application, additional fee per page, and appeal fees. For instance, the Allahabad High Court charges an application fee of Rs 250, as opposed to the central government’s rule, as applicable to central ministries, which charges Rs 10.

Prashant Reddy Thikkavarapu studied law at the National Law School of India University and Stanford Law School, and is currently a research associate at the school of law at Singapore Management University. He tweets as @preddy85.

Keywords: regulations Aadhaar Legislation Aadhaar act
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