In a breather, Bharti Airtel was Thursday allowed to use Aadhaar for re-verification of its mobile customers till January 10 with stiff riders after it returned Rs. 138-crore LPG subsidy flown into unsolicited payment bank accounts.
The Aadhaar-issuing body Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), however, maintained that Airtel Payments Bank eKYC licence will “remain suspended till final enquiry and audit report”, sources privy to the development told PTI.
The stiff riders imposed by the UIDAI range from limiting the eKYC only for re-verification of telecom subscribers to Airtel informing its customers within next 24-hours about mapping of the DBT benefits back to the original bank accounts.
The UIDAI issued its second interim order to this effect Thursday.
As per the order, the relief is contingent on Airtel restricting its eKYC and authentication service only for re-verification and issuance of SIM cards.
The telecom major – India’ largest with 282 million mobile subscribers – would not be allowed to leverage the same for obtaining consent of the Aadhaar holder for opening bank accounts, wallet, Direct to Home (DTH) or any other goods or services, sources said.
Airtel will now have to inform its customers over next 24 hours that the direct benefit transfers received in their Airtel payment bank accounts have been duly reversed to original bank accounts.
An Airtel spokesperson said that “…we would like to confirm that the UIDAI has allowed Bharti Airtel to resume Aadhaar based eKYC services. We continue to engage with the authorities”.
The UIDAI has asked both Reserve Bank of India and the telecom department to conduct an audit of systems, processes, applications, documentations followed by Bharti Airtel “to ensure that the company is in compliance with their license conditions”.
The nodal body for Aadhaar will take a view on the entire issue after it receives a report from both the RBI and the telecom department by January 10.
The decision to temporarily lift the suspension on Bharti Airtel till January 10 was taken after Rs. 138-crore direct benefit transfer (DBT) was repaid into 55.63 lakh original accounts of its customers.
Airtel has said that 13.80 lakh Airtel payment bank account holders are already using the DBT subsidy amount and therefore their accounts have not been reversed on the mapper.
But even in those cases, the company will have to provide an option to such customers (via SMS within three days) to switch to their previous DBT-linked bank accounts.
Source said that while taking the decision, the UIDAI kept in mind the convenience of customers and also the looming March 31 deadline given by the Supreme Court for mobile SIM re-verification.
The UIDAI has not allowed Airtel Payment Bank Limited to use eKYC licence key and it shall remain deactivated until further notice.
Both Airtel and Airtel Payments bank came under fire after the Sunil Mittal-led firm allegedly opened accounts of its mobile phone subscribers without seeking their “informed consent”, and LPG subsidy worth crores was deposited into these accounts.
The government acted swiftly in the matter and the UIDAI, in a strong move late last week, temporarily barred the company from conducting Aadhaar-based SIM verification of mobile customers using eKYC process, and e-KYC of payments bank clients.
Moreover, to avoid a repeat of Bharti Airtel-type fiasco, the UIDAI earlier this week directed banks to seek an explicit consent of the beneficiary before changing the account to which the government subsidy is being remitted.