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However, the Airtel payments bank e-KYC licence will remain suspended and the operator cannot use the e-KYC and authentication service for opening bank accounts, wallet, DTH or any other service.
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in November last year had barred Airtel from conducting Aadhaar-based e-KYC of its mobile customers and payments bank clients after reports emerged that payment bank accounts were opened for its mobile subscribers without "informed consent" and cooking gas subsidy worth crores of rupees was deposited into them.
However, the Aadhaar-issuing authority than granted a temporary approval to Airtel till January 10 to do e-KYC for its mobile customers. UIDAI had also requested Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to submit a report regarding the Airtel case and also asked PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an audit of the company regarding the issue of opening bank accounts without "informed consent".
Sources said DoT and RBI are yet to submit the report whereas PricewaterhouseCoopers has submitted the audit report. The UIDAI is likely to deliberate on the matter in February when it gets the reports from DoT and RBI.
Reacting to the extension of approval, an Airtel spokesperson said, "We can confirm that the UIDAI has permitted Bharti Airtel to continue Aadhaar based e-KYC till March 31, 2018, subject to compliance to guidelines laid down by the authority."
The approval to Airtel was given on the condition that the operator would return Rs 138 crore of the cooking gas subsidy transferred into its subscribers' payment bank accounts to the original bank accounts held by them.
"We continue to engage with the authorities and have addressed all concerns that they have raised. Compliance to all guidelines is of paramount importance to us and we remain committed to this," the Airtel spokesperson added.
The Airtel case was a classic example about the misuse of Aadhaar e-KYC authentication or process violation by a corporate entity against the interests of its customers.
To avoid a repeat of Airtel-type cases, the UIDAI last month directed banks to seek an explicit consent of the beneficiary before changing the account to which the government subsidy is being remitted.