The Supreme Court on Wednesday clarified that it had never asked for mobile phones to be linked to Aadhaar numbers. So, can you look forward to being spared from constant pesky calls and unwanted messages, mails and notifications from mobile service providers urging you to link or verify your numbers with the government's digital directory? Don't count on it.
On Thursday, many cell phone users reported getting fresh messages pestering them over Aadhaar linkage, despite the SC's statement. But then, telecom service providers seem to have made a habit of ignoring the SC. Even though the apex court had made it clear more than a month ago that the Aadhaar linkage issue should not be pursued until a constitutional bench finally decides on the matter, companies such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have been relentlessly – and rather annoyingly – hounding subscribers.
To make matters worse, retailers have now started refusing to issue new SIM cards to people who do not have an Aadhaar number -- a clear violation of telecom sector rules as well as the views expressed by the top court.
The telecom ministry, on its part, has maintained a deafening silence on the issue, though it had showed great alacrity in issuing the original diktat for the Aadhaar linkage. This order was based on the ministry's own interpretation -- incorrect, as it turns out -- of an observation by the SC in the Lokniti Foundation case.
The number of subscribers who have not linked their phone numbers to Aadhaar is still estimated to be in the hundreds of millions, and many don't take kindly to being bombarded with unwanted communication.
A detailed questionnaire sent to the telecom ministry remained unanswered and calls and messages sent to telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan were not answered. Ministry officials said the matter was "being looked into", but offered no further details or clarifications.
Telecom operators, who usually refrain from answering on consumer issues, also refused to comment on the matter.
Industry lobby group COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) said the companies were "simply complying" with the government's previous directive that had asked them to link the numbers with Aadhaar.
COAI director-general Rajan Mathews said, "Please note that the court has only extended the last date of re-verification till the pronouncement of the judgement, they have not directed us to halt the entire process. Therefore, regarding communication from telecom operators (e-mail, SMS) for re-verification, telecom ministry has not ordered us to stop sending such communication to subscribers."
Defending the unwanted communication, Mathews further said, "The communication is still being sent to cell phone users to encourage them to re-verify their mobile connections. However, no last date for completion of this exercise is to be mentioned in such communication… All the telecom companies are adhering to telecom ministry guidelines. Hence, they continue to send communication to subscribers to re-verify their mobile connections without mentioning any last date."
Officials at UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India), did not comment on the matter.