Budget 2016: Finance minister to introduce Aadhaar Bill in budget session

In what could be a significant move for the UIDAI project, finance minister Arun Jaitley said that the government will enact a law where Aadhaar will be given statutory backing.

“First, we will introduce a bill for Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services by using the Aadhaar framework. The bill will be introduced in the current Budget Session of the Parliament,” Jaitley said. “The Aadhaar number or authentication shall not, however, confer any right of citizenship or domicile,” he added.

The finance minister also said that the government will develop a social security platform using Aadhaar to target intended beneficiaries.

UIDAI states that as of December 2014, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has issued 70 crore Aadhaar Cards. The highest number of cards have been issued in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Maharashtra, West Bengal and Bihar (we had reported previously that 2 crore Aadhaar numbers had been assigned to Bihar’s citizens, out of a total population of 10.41 crores). The least number of cards have been issued in Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Uttarakhand among others.

At present Unique Identification Authority of India, issuer of Aadhaar numbers, is functioning under an executive notification of the Planning Commission.  In September 2015, the UIDAI, which is responsible for issuing Aadhar cards in the country, was shifted to ministry of IT and communications from the country’s top policy commission, NITI Aayog.

Supreme Court rulings 

The Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition regarding the privacy issues around the Aadhaar project. The Central Government argued that citizens were entitled to waive their fundamental right to privacy (assuming that privacy is a fundamental right) in return for the governmental benefits. More on that here.

In August 2015, the SC had made Aadhaar optional except for public distribution system and LPG connections. Various State governments, including Gujarat and Jharkhand along with central bodies such as RBI, SEBI, TRAI and the Pension Regulatory Authority returned to the court saying the August order had become a roadblock for people with Aadhaar to enrol in other social benefit schemes.

Earlier in 2014, the Supreme Court had ruled that Aadhaar cannot be mandatory for any government service.

The court had passed an interim order in 2013 stating that Aadhaar cards should not be mandatory for social services, after a PIL was raised by Karnataka High Court judge KS Puttaswamy. He claimed that various state governments had linked social benefits to Aadhaar and that this had resulted in many people losing these benefits.

Other Aadhaar developments

– Earlier this month, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) proposed that the Department of Telecom (DoT) allow e-KYC (know your customer) of Aadhaar as one of the valid documents to get a new mobile connection.

– In the same month, Microsoft said that it is working on a pilot to integrate its VoIP solution Skype with the Aadhaar database, to see if Aadhaar can be used as an identification system for video calls with government organisations and institutions among others.

– As of March 2015, the NPCI linked 15 crore bank accounts opened under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana with Aadhar numbers. The linking of an Aadhar number with a bank account makes the job of identification easier for the government in order to make welfare payments and subsidies directly into the bank accounts.