Under fire for filing an FIR against a newspaper for a report highlighting alleged breach in Aadhaar database, UIDAI today said that it respects free speech, including freedom of press, and its police complaint should not be viewed as “shooting the messenger”. Days after it filed an FIR against a prominent newspaper based out of Chandigarh, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in a statement today said that its act should not be viewed as one targeting media or whistle-blower. Justifying its stance, UIDAI said criminal proceedings have been initiated as it was an act of unauthorised access. “UIDAI respects Free Speech including the Freedom of Press and Media.. However, UIDAI’s act of filing an FIR with full details of the incident should not be viewed as UIDAI targeting the media or the whistle-blowers or ‘shooting the messenger’,” the Aadhaar-issuing body said in a statement. It maintained that there was no breach of Aadhaar biometric database. Explaining the FIR that has been filed in the matter, UIDAI said complete details of the incident needs to be provided with the names of persons connected with case so that “full and fair investigation” can be undertaken and “culprits” be brought to justice.
“It does not necessarily mean that everyone mentioned in the FIR is a culprit unless after a thorough and fair investigation, the person is charge-sheeted and proved to be guilty beyond doubt in the court of law. “But, all those who have been there in the chain of incident in which the crime has been committed, have to be mentioned, including unknowns in the FIR, so that police can make proper investigation in the interest of justice,” the statement said.
The statement came on the back of a news report, last week, claiming that anonymous sellers were offering instant and unrestricted access to Aadhaar details for Rs 500 over WhatsApp. The UIDAI had dismissed the reports asserting that its system is “secure” and any misuse could be traced and action taken since it maintained complete log of various functions. The authority’s statement today said that FIR has been registered in Cyber Cell of Delhi Police for violations under various sections of Aadhaar Act, Indian Penal Code and IT Act.
Citing views of the Supreme Court in another matter, UIDAI said that the judgement had underlined basic principle that “a crime does not stand obliterated or extinguished merely because its commission is claimed to be in public interest”. “Therefore, UIDAI as a statutory authority is duty bound to place all the facts before the police in order for a fair and impartial investigation to take place to arrive at the truth,” UIDAI release said. The authority reiterated that there has absolutely been no breach of Aadhaar biometric database “in any manner whatsoever”.