SC order puts Aadhaar linkage campaign in jeopardy

Supreme court has restricted the card usage only to PDS and LPG subsidies

GN Bureau | October 8, 2015


#Aadhaar   #PDS subsidies   #LPG subsidies   #Supreme court   #MGNREGA  


The usage of Aadhaar by government and private agencies will come to a standstill and many projects will be affected by the refusal of the supreme court on Wednesday to modify its August 11 order.

Many agencies, which had begun, linking Aadhaar, have issued directives to reconsider or halt their linkages to avoid contempt of court.

The list includes the Election Commission (which was seeding the entire country's voter identity cards to weed out fakes and duplicates), Employees Provident Fund Organisation (that had linked the unique account number with Aadhaar), ministry of rural development (MGNREGA funds were being disbursed through Aadhaar-linked bank accounts), and the Jan Dhan Yojana (that was providing the overdraft facility to Aadhaarlinked accounts).

Other schemes likely to be put on hold are DigiLocker, e-sign and Jeevan Praman. Unless the current order is modified, even the voluntary usage of Aadhaar for any other purpose except for LPG and food subsidy by citizens will be disputed.

 A bench of Justices J Chelameswar, S A Bobde and C Nagappan in its brief order said since petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar cards have been referred to a five-judge Constitution bench, it would be better that the same bench takes a decision on applications filed by the Centre and other bodies seeking modification of the August 11 order.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the Centre would mention the issue before the chief justice on Thursday itself seeking an early decision on its applications on universal use of Aadhaar on a voluntary basis. The court's August 11 interim order had said no one would be denied benefits under social welfare schemes for want of the 11-digit unique identification number. However, it had permitted the government to link PDS and LPG subsidies to the Aadhaar card to check possible pilferage.

Meanwhile, Karnataka has decided to join in the legal fight to defend it. Gujarat and Jharkhand, both BJP ruled states, have already joined the Centre and the RBI, among other central bodies, to appeal against the Supreme Court's verdict restricting the use of Aadhaar.

The contention of all the states is the Aadhaar is the best way to authenticate and deliver government services across all sectors.  The argument is that the entire concept of Digital India, which puts everything in the digital space and uses just the biometrics of the citizen to authenticate all documents and services, is dependent on the Aadhaar going through.

Karnataka, with about 83 per cent of its 6.1 crore population covered under Aadhaar, is the only state other than Maharashtra to apply for and get registered as a principal authenticating agency with the Unique Identification Authority of India, the platform for Aadhaar. Under this agreement, anyone who needs to use the Aadhaar data bank as a seed to authenticate their services can apply to the state's Centre for e-Governance and use the Aadhaar data to deliver.

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