Journalist Not The Target, Suggests Police After Outrage Over Aadhaar FIR

The newspaper, The Tribune, had reported that it received an offer to buy access into the Aadhaar database for Rs. 500, and that its journalist was given login details to access the data.

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Journalist Not The Target, Suggests Police After Outrage Over Aadhaar FIR

Aadhaar faces a legal challenge in the Supreme Court over privacy concerns.

New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. UIDAI files case over Aadhaar leak report against journalist among others
  2. Move sparks widespread anger, UIDAI says not trying to muzzle free speech
  3. For now, probe will focus on tracing people who sold the data: Police
Responding to widespread disapproval of the police case against a journalist for exposing a racket that gave people unauthorised access of Aadhaar data for a price, Delhi Police on Sunday said their probe would, for now, focus on tracing the people who sold the password.

The newspaper, The Tribune, had reported that it received an offer to buy access into the Aadhaar database for Rs. 500, and that its journalist was given login details to access the data. The journalist tried to key in an individual's Aadhaar number and was able to see the demographic details of the person concerned, the newspaper had claimed.

The expose had embarrassed the UIDAI. Its Aadhaar already faces a legal challenge in the Supreme Court over privacy concerns. Outside, many experts also believe that UIDAI's model to put a great deal of private information accessible over the internet was a flawed idea that runs the risk of hacking despite the UIDAI claims of strong encryption system.

Madhur Verma, spokesperson of the police in the national capital, said the complaint sent by the Unique Identification Authority of India, or UIDAI which governs the Aadhaar project, had mentioned the name of the reporter who was purportedly given access.

"Investigation has been initiated with the present focus on tracing and booking the person who has shared the password, the Delhi Police spokesperson said in a statement.

The Editor's Guild of India has responded strongly to the police case, condemning "the UIDAI's action to have the Tribune reporter booked by the police as it is clearly meant to browbeat a journalist whose investigation on the matter was of great public interest".

"It is unfair, unjustified and a direct attack on the freedom of the press," the top editor's body said.

The Congress had also attacked the government for what it has described as its "arrogance of power at its worst".

The UIDAI, which had been quick to file the police case, had stood its ground. The authority said its police complaint was not targeted at the journalist but it had to name the reporter, Rachna Khaira, because she was part of the chain of events that led to the misuse of its grievance redress facility.

An impression is being created in media that UIDAI "is targeting the media or whistleblowers or 'shooting the messenger'. This is not at all true," the authority's statement said. But it also underlined a person's guilt or innocence could only be decided after a police probe and trial.

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But UIDAI also underlined a person's guilt or innocence could only be decided after a police probe and trial.

A copy of the First Information Report registered by the police seen by NDTV, however, shows that the UIDAI official, BM Patnaik, had specifically asked the police to register the case, among others, against the journalist Rachna Khaira too.

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