Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Millions of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) living across the world do not need to bother about their Aadhaar identity card as it is not applicable to them, a top Indian official told Gulf News on Wednesday.

“According to Aadhar Act, only residents of India are entitled to get an Aadhaar number. NRIs cannot get an Aadhaar because they are not entitled to get it,” Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), said in a telephone interview from New Delhi on Wednesday.

The authority is responsible for the processes of enrolment and authentication of data for India’s unique identification system — Aadhaar — and maintaining India’s Central Identities Data Repository.

Pandey was referring to Section 3.1 of the Aadhaar Act 2016, which says that only a resident shall be entitled to obtain an Aadhaar number.

Although the act does not specifically and explicitly exempt NRIs from the enrolment, the official was referring to the fact that an Indian would be treated as non-resident if he or she did not stay for at least 182 days in India in the preceding year as per other relevant laws, including Income Tax Act. As the Aadhaar act or any government notifications or orders never specifically exempted NRIs from Aadhaar enrolment, there was a widespread impression that NRIs also had to get the card.

As Gulf News reported on Wednesday, Indian expatriates in the UAE had expressed their concerns about the latest move by the Indian government to make Aadhaar card mandatory for accessing several services and transactions. When Gulf News took up these concerns with the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Indian ministry of external affairs in New Delhi, they said they were awaiting clarifications from New Delhi in this regard.

Dr Pandey explained that the authority was not supposed to issue Aadhaar card to NRIs. “They [NRIs] cannot get a [Aadhar card].”

While applying for Aadhaar card, he explained, Indians have to make a declaration in the application stating that he/she is a resident (not an NRI).

The declaration reads: “I confirm that I have been residing in India for at least 182 days in the preceding 12 months.”

However, when it was pointed out that NRIs have already obtained the card, Dr Pandey said: “The legal position is that they were not supposed to apply for the card. [Moreover] they have given a declaration that they have stayed in India for 182 days [in the preceding year].”

Asked whether Indian expatriates would face any legal action for “illegally obtaining the card”, he said : “I am not sure. But technically there is a violation; they should not have taken it,” Dr Pandey said.

Pressed for an answer on whether the authority would initiative any legal action, he said: “I will have to see on what circumstances NRIs obtained the card.”

Asked whether those NRIs should cancel their cards to be on the safe side of the law, he said there was no provision to cancel Aadhar card. “Once generated, Aadhar number will exist forever.”

The CEO made it clear that NRIs need not worry about access being denied to government services for not having Aadhar card. It is the responsibility of the relevant departments to give exemption to NRIs in this regard, he added.

The departments can get a declaration from the NRI that, being an NRI, he or she is not eligible for Aadhar card.


What the law says:

Section 3.1 says : “Every resident shall be entitled to obtain an Aadhaar number by submitting his demographic information and biometric information by undergoing the process of enrolment: Provided that the Central Government may, from time to time, notify such other category of individuals who may be entitled to obtain an Aadhaar number.

What about NRIs who have obtained the card?

An Indian lawyer said those NRIs who have already obtained an Aadhaar card do not need to worry at all. “Those who have given their correct demographic information (name, date of birth, address etc.) and genuine biometric (photo, finger prints, iris scan) should not be worried,” said T.V George, Advocate on Record at Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

Even though, technically, there may be a false declaration, which may attract section 34 of the Aadhar Act 2016 or Section 465 of Indian Penal Code, it should be noted that there is no dishonest intention on the part of those NRIs in obtaining the Aadhar card, he said.

On such circumstances, it is unlikely that Indian government may initiate any legal action in this case, George said.