Aadhaar’s ‘voluntary’ use for 4 more schemes permitted
New Delhi,16 Oct:
The Supreme Court today enlarged the scope of the Aadhaar card by allowing its voluntary use for four more schemes — rural employment (MNREGA), zero-balance bank accounts under Jan Dhan Yojana, provident fund and pension.
The court has already allowed its use for providing subsidised foodgrains and kerosene under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and cooking gas (LPG). A Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu passed the order on a plea by government and other bodies that wider use of Aadhaar, held by 92 crore people, was necessary for the success of various welfare programmes for the poor.
The Bench clarified the card could be used only on a voluntary basis, not by force. Aadhaar would be valid for all sorts of pension payments being made by the Centre and state governments to retired employees, including Army personnel, old people and people with disabilities.
The Bench passed the order despite PIL petitioners’ stiff resistance, contending that the government was collecting people’s biometrics (fingerprints and iris) through private companies, some of them based abroad, without any legal sanction. The CJI, however, wanted to know: “If I want to make use of Aadhaar, how can you stop me? I want to exercise my right to use it for getting benefits.
I am also a citizen of this country.” The other members of the Bench are Justices MY Eqbal, C Nagappan, Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy. Acknowledging the importance of the issue, the Bench agreed to expedite the hearing of the PILs to decide the validity of Aadhaar mainly on the basis of its impact on people’s right to privacy.
The government had pleaded for allowing Aadhaar use on a voluntary basis by banks, telecom and insurance companies and a host of other bodies. The PIL petitioners, represented by senior advocates Soli Sorabjee, Gopal Subramanium and Shyam Divan, strongly opposed it.
Partly agreeing with them, the Bench said: “The government may ask for the sun and the moon, but we will relax the restrictions only for the most important welfare schemes.” It would not be proper to allow Aadhaar to some of the schemes and deny it for others, the Bench explained.