Centre, states plan to approach Supreme Court for saving Aadhaar

NEW DELHI: The Centre and some state governments plan to approach the Supreme Court seeking a review of its recent decision to restrict the use of Aadhaar to just food and LPG subsidy, virtually making all other linkages illegal.

The governments have the backing of the Reserve Bank (RBI), which has already filed an application in the top court seeking clarity on whether banks can continue to use the unique identification number as an identity and address proof for opening accounts.
“The order is a little ambiguous, it is unclear on what they mean,” said senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, who is representing the central bank in this matter. He said that RBI is seeking clarity on what should its approach be if a resident wants to voluntarily use Aadhaar for banking services and has no other means of identification. “What are we supposed to do in such a case, say sorry, you can’t use it (Aadhaar), get something else?” said Bhushan, who is also brother of activist advocate Prashant Bhushan.

Over the last one month, Aadhaar has received blow after blow. The Election Commission, Employees Provident Fund Organisation, ministry of rural development (MGNREGA), and the finance ministry administering the Jan Dhan Yojana have issued directives to reconsider or halt their ongoing linkages with the project to avoid contempt of court.

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On Saturday, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said, “We need greater clarity on the matter, especially after the recent Supreme Court ruling which says having Aadhaar card is not mandatory for availing of benefits.” Making a case for Aadhaar, Rajan said its usage can help a deserving person get credit, avoid over-borrowing by individuals and plug leakages.

In the last few years, use of Aadhaar as a valid proof of address and identity has found great acceptance among banks for disbursing financial services and had become one of the largest use cases for UID. There are over 21 crore Aadhaar linked bank accounts in the country currently.

The central government and some states such as Jharkhand are also preparing the ground to file review petitions.

A senior official in the know said the Centre’s office of Direct Benefits Transfer is readying to file a review. “We are trying to find a solution to address the court’s concern on privacy which should help in getting some respite for Aadhaar,” the official said, adding that a decision will be taken within ten days and. The move is aimed at ending the confusion in departments and ministries over Aadhaar.

In August, the Supreme Court had ruled that Aadhaar will not be used for any other purposes except PDS, kerosene and LPG distribution system. It also said that the information received by UIDAI shall not be used for any other purposes, except in criminal investigation with the permission of the court.

“This order is affecting us badly,” said an official of Jharkhand government, which has linked Aadhaar for transfer of old age pension, scholarships and was planning to use it for monitoring the midday meal scheme also.

Jharkhand plans to file an appeal in the court to request modification of the order so that it can continue to use Aadhaar for delivery and monitoring of its welfare schemes.

“Aadhaar is used for not just availing of benefits but also for effective implication of existing schemes. Which other means enables a government to monitor how many children actually ate their midday meal and give funds to the school accordingly?” the state official said.

So far more than 90 crore people have enrolled for Aadhaar.

It has also found great support in the Narendra Modi government.