In a polite, but very public message to telecom regulator RS Sharma, Aadhaar body UIDAI on Tuesday strongly disapproved the senior bureaucrat revealing his 12-digit identification number on social media and challenging critics of the citizen identification programme to do him "any harm".
Without naming Mr Sharma who once led the Aadhaar body, the UIDAI said people should refrain from putting out Aadhaar numbers on internet and social media and posing challenges to others.
"Such activities are uncalled for and should be refrained as these are not in accordance with the law," the Unique Identification Authority of India, or UIDAI, said in a late evening statement on Tuesday.
Mr Sharma is a former chief executive officer of UIDAI.
The UIDAI had initially appeared to back up Mr Sharma when it issued its first statement on Sunday, insisting that information pulled out by people ostensibly using his Aadhaar number was already available in public domain.
But over the last few days once people started using this information to drive home their point, scores of people tried to carry out transactions using his Aadhaar number. One forged his Aadhaar card and used it to open social media account, another claimed to deposit Re 1 into the bank account and many others opened accounts on shopping portals.
In his last tweet on the topic last night, Mr Sharma had a small request. "Small request, the failed Aadhaar Authentication requests (OTP's) are really draining my battery. I'm always ready for constructive discussions. If you have any suggestions please share," he said.
Friends. Let's reconvene tomorrow. Small request, the failed Aadhaar Authentication requests (OTP's) are really draining my battery. I'm always ready for constructive discussions. If you have any suggestions please share.- RS Sharma (@rssharma3) July 30, 2018
Mr Sharma's challenge and its fallout caused a flutter in parliament as well, where opposition parties have repeatedly raised questions about the security of citizen's data.
"He must apologise to the country for making people insecure about their Aadhaar data," said Congress lawmaker Pratap Sigh Bajwa. Left leader D Raja demanded an investigation.
The government is learnt to have conveyed its displeasure about Mr Sharma's challenge and told the UIDAI to set the record straight.
Tuesday evening's UIDAI statement was also seen to advise people who had accepted Mr Sharma's challenge to back off.
The statement said doing Aadhaar authentication through somebody else's Aadhaar number or using someone else's Aadhaar number for any purpose may amount to impersonation and thus, a criminal offence under the Aadhaar Act and Indian Penal Code.
"Any person indulging in such acts or abetting or inciting others to do so makes themselves liable for prosecution and penal action under the law. Therefore people should refrain from such acts," the UIDAI statement.
The UIDAI said people should not display or publish their Aadhaar number in public.
Aadhaar number is personally sensitive information like bank account number, passport number, PAN number, etc., which should be strictly shared only on a need basis for a legitimate use for establishing identity and for legitimate transactions, the statement added.