Centre's volte face: Aadhaar linking not needed for mobile SIM cards

In what has been a confusing time over Aadhaar requirements, a new government directive says that the 12-digit unique identity number is not mandatory to get a mobile SIM card. So far, telecom companies have been insisting on all customers providing their Aadhaar details for verification as per an earlier instruction by the Department of Telecommunications.

The Union government has directed telecom companies to accept other documents like driving license, passport and voter ID card for identity verification. According to The Times of India, telecom secretary Aruna Sundarajan has asked operators to follow the new directive.
The Supreme Court last week clarified that it had not ordered mandatory linkage of mobile phone numbers with Aadhaar, and said the government misinterpreted its 6 February 2017 observations to insist on such linkage. (See: Never directed linkage of mobile numbers with Aadhaar, clarifies SC). 
But whether this actually stops telecos from demanding Aadhaar linkage remains to be seen. In any case the new directive comes rather late in the day, as most if not all cellphone users would have submitted their Aadhaar by now.
Still, the clarification move will be helpful to non-resident Indians and foreigners visiting the country who have been denied a local SIM as they do not have an Aadhaar number. Mobile companies have been denying them SIM cards without providing a valid Aadhaar card.
"The ministry has issued instructions to all telecom companies asking them not to deny a SIM card to any individual who does not have an Aadhaar number. We have asked them to accept other forms of KYC (know your customer) documents," Sundararajan told TOI.
The government has also reportedly asked mobile companies to "take it easy" regarding re-verification of mobile numbers with Aadhaar. The Supreme Court has already extended the deadline for this indefinitely.