Aadhaar law likely to pass test of constitutionality: Arun Jaitley

NEW DELHI: Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said the Aadhaar legislation will stand the test of constitutionality.

The minister’s comment comes at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing a petition challenging a government move to make the Aadhaar number mandatory for benefits under social welfare schemes.

“The legislation has been passed and I am sure it will stand the test of constitutionality for the reason that even while upholding, rightly so, the idea of privacy as an important constitutional guarantee, the restraints under Article 21, which the Supreme Court said could be imposed, they have to be by law; they have to be obviously reasonable,” said Jaitley.

Addressing a conclave on financial inclusion, the minister said Aadhaar was a great idea when it was first mooted by the UPA government, but it was still evolving. “The full potential of Aadhaar had not been realised at the time. There was no legislation, there was a draft law,” he said, adding that Aadhaar enables targeted state support to beneficiaries.

The minister said the more the direct benefit of transfer (DBT) expands, the more of Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) accounts will get operational. Jaitley said subsidy must reach those for whom it is targeted. “We have strong schemes at central and state level ensuring money goes directly into bank accounts,” he said, noting that zero balance accounts have come down to 20% in the last three years from 77%.

In September 2014, three months after the Aadhaar scheme was launched, 76.81% of the country’s total bank accounts had zero balance. The number of zero-balance accounts has now come down to 20% of the total, he said. The minister said there is an emphasis in India, particularly after demonetisation, to reduce the quantum of cash in the society.