A bill seeking to grant statutory powers and status to Nandan Nilekani-headed national body for issue of identification numbers to all citizens was introduced in the Rajya Sabha today. The National Identification Authority of India (NIAI), constituted in January, 2009 is functioning as an executive body under the Planning Commission.

As the NIAI is expected to issue the identification numbers to citizens, it may require statutory powers to deal with issues like security and confidentiality of information, impersonation and unauthorised access to data.

It was felt, however, that mere executive powers may not be adequate for the Authority to discharge its functions.

“It has been felt necessary to make it as a statutory Authority for carrying out the functions of issuing identification numbers to residents in India in an effective manner,” the statement of objects and reasons of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010, said.

The proposed legislation was introduced in the Upper House by Minister of Planning and Parliamentary Affairs V Narayansamy amidst din and shouting of slogans by the Opposition, agitated over irregularities in allocation of 2G Spectrum, as pointed out by the CAG.

The scheme was launched at Nandurbar, a tribal district in North Maharashtra in September.

“The scheme of unique identification involves collection of demographic information and biometric information from individuals for the purpose of issuing of unique identification numbers,” the bill said.

It has provisions for up to three years imprisonment besides penalties for any misuse of information.

“The Authority shall take measures (including security safeguards) to ensure that information in the possession or control of the authority is secured and protected against any loss or unauthorised access…,” it said.

The Authority will consist of a chairperson and two part- time members appointed by the Central government for a term of three years.

There is also a provision of an Identity Review Committee to check the pattern of usage of identification numbers.

The Cabinet had approved the bill on September 24. The identification number will be issued to citizens except those in Jammu and Kashmir to ensure the authentication of individuals for access to benefits and services of government and other various schemes.

Earlier, the government had pegged an expenditure of Rs 3023 crore by March 2011 and thereafter recurring establishment costs for the entire project to be completed by March 2014.

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