Outcry over FIR against Tribune journalist
Kolkata: The Delhi Police has registered an FIR on a complaint by a deputy director of the Unique Identification Authority of India in connection with a newspaper report on the breach of details of the over one billion Aadhaar cards, naming the journalist behind the story.
UIDAI Deputy Director B M Patnaik informed the police that an input was received from The Tribune that the newspaper purchased a service being offered by anonymous sellers over WhatsApp that provided unrestricted access to details of any of the more than 1 billion Aadhaar numbers created in India, the police said on Sunday.
On January 5, a complaint was received from Patnaik, and the FIR was registered the same day, they said.
The UIDAI official informed the police that the correspondent of The Tribune, posing as a buyer, had purchased the details.
The FIR mentions the names of the journalist and the people the reporter reached out to purchase the Aadhaar data, but they have not been shown as accused, the police said.
The police said that they would be questioned.
The Editor's Guild of India has condemned the police case against the journalist, Rachna Khaira.
"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," it said in a statement.
"Instead of penalising the reporter, UIDAI should have ordered a thorough internal investigation into the alleged breach and made its findings public," the top editors' body said, demanding that the cases be withdrawn.
On January 3, a news report published in The Tribune had claimed that 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 Aadhaar 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 Aadhaar cards. Following the expose, the UIDAI in a statement had subsequently denied that any data breach was possible.
"UIDAI assures that there has not been any Aadhaar data breach... The Aadhaar data including biometric information is fully safe and secure," it said.
Under fire for filing the FIR, the UIDAI on Sunday said it respects free speech, including freedom of the press, and its police complaint should not be viewed as "shooting the messenger".
In a statement, it said that its act should not be viewed as one targeting the media or a whistleblower.
Justifying its stance, the UIDAI said criminal proceedings had been initiated as it was an act of unauthorised access.
Rachna Khaira, the reporter of The Tribune newspaper who has been booked by the Delhi Police in connection with a newspaper report on the breach of details of over one billion Aadhaar cards, on Sunday said she was happy about the development as she had "earned" the FIR.