Supreme Court issues notice on acid attack survivors’ plea for inclusive digital KYC norms

The petitioners, comprising 9 acid attack survivors, have encountered numerous hurdles across various regulatory bodies and both public and private entities in different sectors while attempting to access fundamental financial and telecommunication services. In response to their plea, the Supreme Court has issued notice to the Central government, requesting the establishment of comprehensive guidelines for an inclusive digital Know Your Customer (KYC) process. This process would cater specifically to acid attack survivors and individuals with permanent eye damage.

Headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, the bench has summoned responses from key entities including the Central Government, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Ministry of Finance, and Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Recognizing the significance of the matter, the Chief Justice has scheduled further hearings for July.

The petitioners, represented by Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra, Advocate Anmol Kheta, and Advocate Nitin Saluja, recount their personal ordeals, emphasizing the indignities and humiliations they’ve faced. They seek inclusivity through several directives outlined in their plea:

  1. The Central Government is urged to formulate new guidelines facilitating alternative methods for digital KYC, specifically tailored for acid attack survivors and similarly affected individuals.
  2. Entities conducting digital KYC processes must effectively implement these guidelines and establish organizational policies to accommodate alternative methods.
  3. The interpretation of “live photograph” should be expanded or clarified by the Central Government to include alternative criteria beyond eye blinking, such as facial movements or voice recognition.
  4. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should introduce amendments or alternatives to meet the “live photo” requirement.
  5. Regulatory bodies like RBI, SEBI, and TRAI are urged to instruct regulated entities, including banks, financial institutions, and service providers, to offer account-based relationships or provide financial and telecommunication services using alternative KYC methods that do not rely on eye blinking.
  6. RBI, SEBI, and TRAI should mandate organizations conducting KYC to adopt offline or physical procedures for survivors who are unable to blink for digital KYC.
  7. Sensitization programs should be conducted for entities conducting digital KYC to assist acid attack survivors and similarly affected individuals in accessing banking, telecommunication, and financial services.

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