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UIADAI Targets Whistleblower: FIR against Journalist, The Tribune in Aadhaar Data Leak Expose

January 8, 2018 | By

Chandigarh: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) yesterday targeted the reporter and the newspaper that had exposed the fact that the access to whole database of the Aadhaar cards was available in just Rs. 500/-. Days after the Aadhaar data leak was reported by The Tribune in it’s January 3 edition, the UIDAI on Sunday (Jan. 7) lodged an FIR against The Tribune and its reporter Rachna Khaira besides others.

As per reports he FIR also names Anil Kumar, Sunil Kumar and Raj, all of whom were mentioned in The Tribune report as the people the reporter had contacted in the course of her investigation.

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“An FIR was lodged with the Crime Branch’s cyber cell under Sections 419 (cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery) and 471 (using forged document) of the IPC, Section 66 of the IT Act and Section 36/37 of the Aadhaar Act,” Joint Commissioner of Police Alok Kumar (Crime Branch, New Delhi) said.

FULL TEXT OF STATEMENT ISSUED BY EDITOR OF THE TRIBUNE:

The Tribune Editor-in-Chief’s statement on Aadhaar FIR

My colleagues and I are grateful for expressions of support and solidarity from media organisations and journalists.

We at The Tribune believe that our stories were in the nature of a legitimate journalistic exercise.

Our stories are in the best traditions of responsible journalism.

Our story was in response to a very genuine concern among the citizens on a matter of great public interest.

We regret very much that the authorities have misconceived an honest journalistic enterprise and have proceeded to institute criminal proceedings against the whistleblower.

We shall explore all legal options open to us to defend our freedom to undertake serious investigative journalism.

Harish Khare,

Editor-in-Chief,

The Tribune

FULL TEXT OF STATEMENT ISSUED BY EDITOR’S GUILD OF INDIA:

Editors Guild condemns FIR against Tribune reporter who exposed Aadhar Leaks

PRESS RELEASE

7 Jan 2018

The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned over reports that the Deputy Director of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had registered an FIR against Rachna Khaira, a reporter of The Tribune, in the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police. The reporter has been booked under IPC sections 419 (punishment for cheating under impersonation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery), 471 (using a forged document) and also under sections of the IT Act and the Aadhar Act.

The Tribune report of January 3 by Khaira had exposed how, for a small sum of money made to a payment bank, an agent of a private group would allegedly create a gateway to access details contained in an individual’s Aadhar card. Using a false identity, Khaira had posed as an interested party and claimed in her report that she had easy access to details that individuals had listed in their Aadhar cards. The UIDAI in a statement had subsequently denied that any data breach was possible.

The Guild condemns 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. Instead of penalising the reporter, UIDAI should have ordered a thorough internal investigation into the alleged breach and made its findings public. The Guild demands that the concerned Union Ministry intervene and have the cases against the reporter withdrawn apart from conducting an impartial investigation into the matter.

Signed

Raj Chengappa, President

Prakash Dubey, General Secretary

Kalyani Shankar, Treasurer

FULL TEXT OF UIDAI STATEMENT:

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)

Press Note

07.01.2018

New Delhi. Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) said today that in the recent case of The Tribune’s report in which an FIR is filed, 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. This is a case in which even though there was no breach of Aadhaar biometric database, because UIDAI takes every criminal violation seriously, it is for the act of unauthorized access, criminal proceedings have been initiated.

UIDAI respects Free Speech including the Freedom of Press and Media. However UIDAI’s act of filing an FIR with full details of the incident should not be viewed as UIDAI targeting the media or the whistle-blowers or “shooting the messenger”.

It has to be understood that whenever a crime is noticed, the concerned person is required to report in the form of FIR (First Information Report) to police in which the entire details of the crime and the incident have to be disclosed to the police. The full details of the incident as available needs to be provided with the names of persons known or unknown connected with the incident in the FIR complaint so that police or the investigating agency can take up a full and fair investigation and bring the culprits to justice. It does not necessarily mean that everyone mentioned in the FIR is a culprit unless after a thorough and fair investigation the person is chargesheeted and proved to be guilty beyond doubt in the court of law. But all those who have been there in the chain of incident in which the crime has been committed, have to be mentioned including unknowns in the FIR so that police can make proper investigation in the interest of justice.

In this case, UIDAI filed a complaint on 4th Jan. 2018 with full details of everyone involved in the incident on which an FIR no. 9/18 of PS Crime branch dated 5/1/2018 has been registered in Cyber Cell of Delhi Police against Anil Kumar, Sunil Kumar, Raj, Rachna Khaira, The Tribune and other unknown persons for violations of Section 36 and 37 of Aadhaar Act, 2016, Section 419, 420, 468 and 471 of IPC and Section 66 of IT Act, 2000/8. UIDAI is duty bound to disclose all the details of the case, which was in its knowledge at the time of filing the FIR, and name everyone

who is an active participant in the chain of the events leading to commission of the crime , regardless whether the person is a journalist or anyone else, so that police can conduct proper investigation and bring the real culprit to justice. It does not mean that all those who are named in the report are necessarily guilty or being targeted. Whether one is guilty or not will be decided after police investigations and trial.

UIDAI would like to reassure everyone that there has absolutely been no breach of Aadhaar biometric database in any manner whatsoever. It also holds that the said Tribune report of Billion Aadhaar details on sale for Rs. 500 is clearly a case of misreporting being incorrect and misleading.

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