Card Trumped

 Nitish K Singh |  2013-10-06 21:24:04.0  |  New Delhi

Card Trumped

How can the central government link all its popular welfare programmes with the Aadhaar card, or the Unique Identity (UID) number, despite there being a lot of confusion over it, even within the government’s own appendages? With the government getting a body blow after the Supreme Court interim order on the pet project, can it still be linked with all the schemes that affect common man directly?

Though the government has apparently told its attorneys to explore the option to approach the court again on the issue, the question still remains as to how can people be forced to obtain the card even when it is supposed to be voluntary. Most of the schemes of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government have been linked with Aadhaar card despite the fact that there is no legal ground for doing so; there is just a non-binding executive order. However, as it turns out, several states, especially those that are being ruled by either the Congress or other UPA alliance partners, have linked most of the welfare programmes with the Aadhaar card. In fact, in the national capital, you now practically need Aadhar card for everything: from a rented accommodation to marriage registration. 

Various states have made Aadhaar cards compulsory for a range of activities, including getting one’s salary, provident fund disbursals as well as marriage and property registration.
In days to come, this is going to snowball into a major issue for the aam aadmi as the cooking gas dealers are forcing all their consumers to possess Aadhaar cards in case they wanted permissible number of gas cylinders at government-subsidised rates. Reports suggest that in the next few months, one would get the subsidy on gas cylinders directly sent to their accounts, which, however, must be linked with  their Aadhaar cards.
The question remains why the government, on one hand, is forcing people to have the Aadhaar card, when there are petitions pending in courts questioning the legality of it, and, on the other hand, keep increasing the tally of welfare programmes that are in turn linked with Aadhaar/UID.

In spite there being a petition pending in the Supreme Court, and another in the Delhi high court, the government simply keeps insisting on the need to obtain the Aadhaar card. And, while it says UID is voluntary, and not compulsory, then why does it still claim citizens would  lose the benefits of government programmes if they do not have one? Those who have petitioned against the Aadhaar card in the court question the haste in which it is being linked with various services. They ask why doesn’t the government get the bill passed in Parliament before linking with number of programmes. Clearly, the way the government has started its implementation is odd and illegal, so the activists assert.
In fact, Parliament’s standing committee on finance had rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 on several grounds. Those opposed to it say that despite this, the government did not modify the bill and brought it back as it is to Parliament to get its nod. They say that it is not constitutional to implement it through an executive order when it has been rejected by Parliament’s standing committee. The biggest issues, according to the detractors, against the Aadhar card are that it infinges upon the right to privacy, and compounds the fear of misuse of biometric information, iris and fingerprints in the absence of a proper system to ensure their safety. Another argument is about the card being provided to illegal immigrants.

During the hearing in the apex court, all these issues had been raised. Hearing the matter on 23 September, the apex court passed an interim order. It said, ‘In the meanwhile, no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory and when any person applies to get the Aadhaar card voluntarily, it may be checked whether that person is entitled for it under the law and it should not be given to any illegal immigrant.’ 

The government is apparently exploring the option to approach the apex court against this interim order. This without clarifying any of the issues raised against Aadhaar card. However, now with the apex court order, there are question marks on the programmes linked with Aadhaar card and government making the situation more confusing by claiming it’s voluntary on one hand, and mulling over approaching the court, on the other.

Will the government clear the confusion over the issue? Is the Aadhaar card voluntary or mandatory?

Nitish K Singh

Nitish K Singh

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