The Centre may allow Aadhaar authentication for delivery of the social welfare benefits by government entities to ensure “good governance” and for “prevention of dissipation of welfare benefits” to the people, a government order has said.

Till now, the government has allowed seeding of Aadhaar number for delivery of social welfare benefits under some programmes such as Public Distribution System. However, for delivery of the benefit such as food grains under the public distribution system or money under pension schemes, Aadhaar authentication was not needed.

This could, however, change with the new rules called the Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation, Knowledge) Rules, 2020.

“The Central government may allow Aadhaar authentication by requesting entities in the interest of good governance, preventing leakage of public funds, promoting ease of living of residents and enabling better access to services for them,” the rules notified by the ministry of electronics and information technology on Wednesday said.

According to the Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation, Knowledge) Rules, 2020, a state or a central government department can request Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to allow Aadhaar authentication for “usage of digital platforms to ensure good governance, prevention of dissipation of social welfare benefits and enablement of innovation and the spread of knowledge.”

UIDAI is responsible for the enrolment and authentication of the 12-digit unique identity number, along with developing policy, procedure and system for issuing Aadhaar numbers to individuals.

Aadhaar authentication allows the government to verify the identity of a person before providing the individual access to consumer services, subsidies, and other benefits. This can be done through one-time pin sent to the mobile number or email address of the Aadhaar number holder or through fingerprint or iris-based authentication. However, the government will have to seek individual’s consent before collecting information related to an individual’s identity.

The role of Aadhaar has undergone a sea change since its implementation in 2010 to provide every Indian resident with a unique identification number, which can be used to avail benefits offered by the government. Over a period of time, it has evolved from being a voluntary to mandatory information required for direct cash transfers. The government has also made it mandatory to link Aadhaar with Permanent Account Number (PAN) to check tax evasion and monitor tax filings.

Last year, the government had allowed voluntary linking of the 12-digit identification number as part of know your customer guidelines to open bank accounts or get a mobile connection. The government had also said that nobody will be denied any service for not having or producing Aadhaar for authentication. In 2017, the Supreme Court had ruled that Aadhaar could only be used in direct benefit transfer for welfare schemes and had barred private companies from using the unique identity number for verifying customer identity.