President of the AlI India MIM Asaduddin Owaisi hit out at the Union government after a row erupted over the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) issuing notices to 127 people in Hyderabad asking them to prove their citizenship. He accused the UIDAI of bias.

In a series of tweets UIDAI tried to clarify its stand, but the Hyderabad Member of Parliament questioned the very authority of the UIDAI to ask anyone to prove their  citizenship.

Mr Owaisi asked the UIDAI how many Muslims and Dalits were among those it had asked to prove their citizenship. He claimed that the UIDAI did not follow due procedure and abused its powers. The result was (understandable) panic among people.

He said that first, the UIDAI doesn’t have the powers to verify citizenship. It has powers to look into cases of Aadhaar being granted incorrectly. He mentioned that the deputy director in this case made it out to be about verifying citizenship, which he isn’t empowered to do. Moreover, the identical notices don’t provide any specific findings of the preliminary inquiry that has to be made, and they don’t even say what these “false pretences” (under which the card was obtained) were.

He said the words used in the notice are ‘verification of citizenship’ (not validity of Aadhaar). So will UIDAI suspend its Deputy Director who issued this notice, he asked, as officials have clearly exceeded their powers by issuing these notices. It was in bad faith and a biased exercise of their powers.

Mr Asaduddin asked which police officer had provided this information to the UIDAI. He also asked the DGP of Telangana to confirm whether the police shared the list of 127 names with UIDAI. “Can they tell us on what grounds they reached this conclusion as UIDAI has now shifted the responsibility to the Telangana Police and now it is their responsibility to clear the air,” he said.

He also said the Telangana Police must stop asking for Aadhaar during search and cordon operations as they are not legally permitted to do so.

The Unique Identification Authority of India has postponed to May the personal hearing for verifying the documents of certain cardholders who were asked to appear before the inquiry officer on February 20.

The UIDAI authorities clarified that these notices have nothing to do with citizenship and the cancellation of an Aadhaar number is no way related to the nationality of any resident. Aadhaar is not a citizenship document. Also, the Supreme Court of India in its landmark decision has directed UIDAI not to issue Aadhaar to illegal immigrants.

The authorities stated that ‘It may be noted that the RO Hyderabad received reports from the State Police that 127 people have obtained Aadhaar on false pretences as in their preliminary enquiry they were found to be illegal immigrants who were not qualified to obtain an Aadhaar number. As per the Aadhaar Act, such Aadhaar numbers are liable to be cancelled. Therefore, the RO Hyderabad has sent notices to them to appear in person and to substantiate their claims for getting an Aadhaar number. After their replies are received and examined, and if it is found and proved that any of them has obtained Aadhaar by submitting false documents or through false pretences, then their Aadhaar is liable to be cancelled or suspended depending on the severity of the transgression. Severe errors like forged documents etc, will lead to appropriate actions, including suspending/cancelling the Aadhaar.’

However, in the said notice/s, the residents in Hyderabad, 127 in number, were asked to appear before the Deputy Director on February 20 for a personal hearing. Since it may take them some more time to collect their original documents that they had submitted for obtaining Aadhaar, as informed by the state police, the UIDAI has postponed the personal hearing to May 2020.

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