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Aadhaar leak: Govt on backfoot as SC says allow freedom of expression

New Delhi: Amid outrage on the FIR lodged over the reporting of alleged Aadhaar data breach, the government went on the defensive on Friday said it had been filed against "unknown" accused while asserting its commitment to the freedom of the press.
The Supreme Court which is hearing a petition challenging the validity of Aadhaar, meanwhile, made it clear that politicians should "allow freedom of expression" during the hearing on another case.
A day after the Delhi Police confirmed registering of an FIR on January 5, based on a complaint by Aadhaar-issuing body UIDAI, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad took to Twitter to clarify the government's position on the issue.
"The government is fully committed to freedom of the press as well as to maintaining security and sanctity of Aadhaar for India's development. FIR is against unknown," he said.
Though the complaint by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) named four persons, including the Chandigarh -based daily The Tribune's reporter who had filed the story on alleged breach in Aadhaar database, Prasad said the FIR was against "unknown".
"I've suggested UIDAI to request Tribune and its journalist to give all assistance to police in investigating real offenders," he said.
The UIDAI also said on Monday that it is committed to the freedom of the press and will approach the newspaper and its reporter for cooperation in the investigation of the alleged data breach.
"We're going to write to @thetribunechd and @rachnakhaira to give all assistance to investigate to nab the real culprits. We also appreciate if Tribune and its journalist have any constructive suggestion to offer," the UIDAI said in a tweet.
The FIR had attracted sharp criticism from various media organisations and bodies, including The Editors Guild of India which sought withdrawal of the case.
The Editor-in-Chief of The Tribune, Harish Khare, had said in a statement on Sunday that "the authorities have misconceived an honest journalistic enterprise and have proceeded to institute criminal proceedings against the whistleblower".
In a related development, Government has extended the deadline for linking of biometric identification Aadhaar to small savings schemes like post office deposits, Kisan Vikas Patra by three months to March 31, 2018.
"It has now been decided to extend the last date for submission of 'Aadhaar' number from December 31, 2017, to March 31, 2018," a Finance Ministry notification said.
BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha on Monday wondered if the people of the country were living in a "banana republic", saying a journalist who did a story to highlight the misuse of Aadhaar details was being hauled up for reporting an "alleged truth".
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