The Delhi Police has registered an FIR on a complaint by a deputy director of the Unique Identification Authority of India in connection with a newspaper report on the breach of details of the over one billion Aadhaar cards, naming the journalist behind the story. UIDAI Deputy Director B M Patnaik informed the police that an input was received from The Tribune that the newspaper purchased a service being offered by anonymous sellers over WhatsApp that provided unrestricted access to details of any of the more than 1 billion Aadhaar numbers created in India, the police said today. On January 5, a complaint was received from Patnaik and the FIR was registered the same day, they said. The police was informed by the UIDAI official that the correspondent of The Tribune, posing as a buyer, had purchased the details. The FIR mentions the names of the journalist and the people the reporter reached out to purchase the Aadhaar data, but they have not been shown as accused, the police said.
The police said that they will be questioned. Under fire for filing the FIR, the UIDAI said it respects free speech, including freedom of the press, and its police complaint should not be viewed as “shooting the messenger”. In a statement, it said that its act should not be viewed as one targeting the media or a whistleblower. Justifying its stance, the UIDAI said criminal proceedings have been initiated as it was an act of unauthorised access.
Reacting to the development, the Congress attacked the Centre over the UIDAI registering the FIR. The opposition party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of shooting the messenger instead of probing the matter. The Congress also raised questions over the “intentions” of the government on privacy issues. “Intent, & ‘Intentions’ of Modi Govt on Privacy were thoroughly exposed when it had proclaimed that ‘no citizen can have an absolute right over his/her body’,” Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted.
“In SC, Modi Govt had accepted Aadhaar data leak! Now instead of investigating, an evasive Modi ji shoots the messenger!” he said. The Editors Guild Of India sought government intervention for the withdrawal of the case and called for an “impartial” investigation into the matter. Criticising the lodging of the FIR, the guild said it was “deeply concerned” over reports that the UIDAI deputy director had registered a complaint in which the reporter of The Tribune has been named.