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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Aadhaar use will be voluntary, says government

Desperate to make Aadhaar usage universal to optimize implementation of welfare schemes, the Centre 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. 

Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told a five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justices M Y 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. 

Rohatgi said when a three-judge bench of the SC had allowed Aadhaar to be voluntarily used for two schemes - subsidy on LPG and ration under public distribution scheme - there was no rationale to stop its voluntary use for 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. 

However, the AG clarified that though the Centre was ready to give the undertaking, a bill was pending in Parliament since 2013 intending to make Aadhaar mandatory for implementation of all welfare schemes. "If Parliament passes the bill and makes Aadhaar mandatory, then the government should not be accused of giving a wrong undertaking," he said. 

The receptiveness of the bench to the Centre's readiness to furnish an undertaking made petitioner's counsel Shyam Divan to sharpen his attack on the unconstitutional manner in which the government was forcing citizens to opt for Aadhaar card. 

"There is neither a law nor even an administrative order mandating implementation of Aadhaar card. How is the government implementing it when the card contains vital biometric data that is crucial to a person's privacy? The government under the Constitution must be taking steps to protect the citizen's privacy rather than attempting to play with it. No country with a Constitution like ours would permit this brazen violation of citizen's fundamental rights. No court like ours would give the government a free run to violate privacy of citizens," Divan said. The arguments will continue. 
Source:-The Times of India

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