The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has issued a statement that it and its members simply followed instructions of the Department of Telecommunication in its move to direct its customers to link their Aadhaar numbers to their mobile connections. As licensees, all mobile network operators in India are bound to obey orders by the Government of India-run Department of Telecommunication, which serves as a regulator for operators.
“Regarding the issue of mobile subscriber verification by telecom service providers, we would like to highlight that the TSPs are the licensees under the Telegraph Act, 1885, and are bound by the license conditions to observe all the reasonable/justifiable directions issued by the Licensor, i.e., Department of Telecommunication (DoT),” COAI said to Economic Times.
All major mobile operators in India including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Reliance Jio have been repeatedly pushing their subscribers to link their Aadhaar numbers with their mobile connections. While at no point was it explicitly mentioned that there would be consequences of not completing the linking, it was implied that there could be a stoppage in services if the linkage wasn’t completed.
The issue comes in the wake of recent comments by the Supreme Court of India that it never ordered the mandatory linking of mobile connections with Aadhaar, and that its order in February 2017 was misinterpreted – perhaps deliberately – by the government to push mobile subscribers in India to complete the process. The department of telecommunication has been using this supposed order by the Supreme Court of India to direct telecom operators to carry out linking of their customers.
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The telcos have had to take the process of linking on themselves, including carrying out the verification in their stores, as well as enabling other methods to verify the connections of people who cannot visit the stores or do not have Aadhaar cards such as NRIs. The clarification from telcos essentially aims to shift the blame for its incessant messages and perhaps misgudied directions to subscribers onto its regulatory body.