Aadhaar voluntary,says Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on Thursday modified its October 8 order restricting the use of the Aadhaar card for only Public Distribution System and LPG subsidy.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday modified its October 8 order restricting the use of the Aadhaar card for only Public Distribution System and LPG subsidy.
The apex court has now said that voluntary use of Aadhaar card for schemes like MGNREGA, all types of pension schemes, PM's Jan Dhan Yojana and EPF is allowed. "(But) the Aadhaar card scheme is purely voluntary and not mandatory till the matter is decided by this court," said the Supreme Court while modifying its order.
The Modi government, eager to optimize implementation of welfare schemes, had on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it was ready to promise in writing that it would be completely voluntary for citizens to obtain and use the unique identification (UID) number.
According to an English daily, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justices MY Eqbal, C Nagappan, Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy that the Centre was ready to file an undertaking that "enrolling for Aadhaar card will be made voluntary and that it would not be insisted upon by authorities in extending benefits under beneficial schemes to citizens".
"No person will be denied benefits under any government scheme for want of Aadhaar card," the AG said. The Centre had argued that since the Supreme Court had allowed voluntary use of the UID for PDS and LPG, there was no rationale for not extending it to other schemes.
The Centre also said the Aadhaar card was an easy method for identification of individuals eligible for benefits under the schemes though citizens not possessing the UID number could produce other identity documents to avail similar benefits.
The Supreme Court on October 8 had refused to modify its August 11 order that restricts the use of the Aadhaar card only to LPG and Public Distribution System schemes. This meant that government bodies like the RBI, SEBI and some states could not avail of the card for social welfare schemes. The SC subsequently referred the issue to a constitution bench at least of five judges.
The bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar had made it clear that all applications seeking "modification, clarification and relaxation" of its August 11 interim order will be heard by the constitution bench itself.
The Centre, RBI, SEBI, IRDA, TRAI, Pension Fund Regulatory Authority and states like Gujarat and Jharkhand had recently moved the court and pleaded strongly for voluntary use of Aadhaar cards for providing benefits of various schemes, other than PDS and LPG, at the doorsteps of the aged and the weaker sections.
However, the pleas for relaxation of the August 11 order restricting the use of Aadhaar cards for PDS scheme and LPG distribution scheme, was opposed by those petitioners on whose PILs the apex court had said these cards will not be mandatory for availing benefits of welfare schemes.
The Supreme Court, while terming Aadhaar as optional in an earlier order, had barred the authorities from sharing personal biometric data collected for enrolment under the scheme. It had also passed a slew of directions for the Centre till the matter was finally decided by a larger bench.
Don’t push Aadhaar so doggedly
An audit of ration shops after the introduction of Aadhaar in Andhra Pradesh has revealed that many genuine beneficiaries couldn’t collect food grain due to system glitches. Civil Supplies started distributing ration through this process in May. That month, at 5,358 ration shops, 6.87 lakh ration card holders of the existing 31 lakh beneficiaries (or 22%) didn’t take ration. At 125 ration shops, the figure was higher at around 58%