October 16, 2015

The Supreme Court on Thursday modified its order on the use of Aadhaar identity cards, bringing within its fold four additional social welfare benefit schemes – provident fund and pension schemes, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Jan Dhan Yojana.

The order was passed by a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu, after hearing all the related parties through two days.

The Centre had moved the court for modification of an August 11 order that restricted the use of Aadhaar to the Public Distribution System (PDS) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). After hearing Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi, an earlier bench decided the issue should be decided by a larger bench, following which the Constitution bench was set up.

“If PDS and LPG are covered in the scheme, why not extend it to other welfare activities?” Dattu asked the counsel of the parties opposing such a move. Thursday’s order is an interim one and will be in force till the issues raised by a number of petitioners are decided.

A challenge faced by several organisations is the unique identity scheme has no statutory sanction – biometric and personal details are collected by private agencies and there is a danger of misusing the data collected by unauthorised agencies.

The Attorney General has allayed these fears, saying the scheme is entirely voluntary and card holders can lock details if they wanted to. The scheme, voluntarily accepted by 920 million people, helps in the financial inclusion of poorer sections and distribution of welfare benefits.

Apart from state governments, the Reserve Bank of India, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India and several other organisations have supported the central government on this issue.

The issue of whether the Aadhaar scheme violates the right to privacy, and whether this right is a fundamental one will be decided by a bench of at least nine judges.

These entities have said ghosts and counterfeits were eroding resources and black money was being generated in the absence of an authentic identity scheme.

Also, terrorists could use transactions in banks and stock exchanges to create illegal funds in India and abroad, they said.

Source: Business Standard