The Editors Guild of India expressed its concerns on Sunday 7 January 2018 about the FIR registered against reporter Rachna Khaira of The Tribune for exposing the sale of Aadhaar card details for a fee. Raj Chengappa, president, Prakash Dubey, general secretary and Kalyani Shankar, treasurer of the guild said in a joint statement, “The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned over reports that the deputy director of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had registered an FIR against Rachna Khaira, a reporter of The Tribune, in the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police. The reporter has been booked under IPC sections 419 (punishment for cheating under impersonation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery), 471 (using a forged document) and also under sections of the IT Act and the Aadhaar Act.”
On 3 January 2018, Khaira wrote an article in the exposing how the private details of individuals on Aadhaar cards could be bought for a small sum deposited in a payment bank and how an agent could access details if an offer was made. The Editor Guilds statement says, “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. The UIDAI in a statement had subsequently denied that any data breach was possible. The Guild condemns UIDAI’s action to have the reporter booked by the police as it is clearly meant to browbeat a journalist whose investigation on the matter was of great public interest.”
The Guild’s statement adds, “It is unfair, unjustified and a direct attack on the freedom of the press. Instead of penalising the reporter, UIDAI should have ordered a thorough internal investigation into the alleged breach and made its findings public. The Guild demands that the concerned Union Ministry intervene and have the cases against the reporter withdrawn apart from conducting an impartial investigation into the matter.”
The Tribune’s editor-in-chief, Harish Khare said the newspaper would take all legal steps to defend its “freedom to undertake serious investigative journalism.” The Chandigarh Press Club in its statement said that the UIDAI’s action of lodging a police complaint against the correspondent amounted to “shooting the messenger . . . Instead of taking action against people who were involved in data breach, the government agency preferred to lodge an FIR against the reporter, who exposed the loopholes in the system,” it said in a statement.