NEW DELHI: The government has addressed the concerns raised before the Supreme Court regarding Aadhaar and those who wish to take subsidies will need a unique identification number, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said. “Most of the concerns raised in the pending litigation before SC have been addressed or sought to be addressed,” Prasad told ET in an interview on Tuesday even as a clutch of petitions on Aadhaar are coming up for hearing before the Supreme Court soon.
“What is the argument in SC? One, that Aadhaar is there but there is no statutory backing; now, an Act is in place. Two, no guidelines are there… now, guidelines are there in the Act and the recently notified regulations. Three, secrecy has not been taken care of; the same has happened now,” Prasad said. The top court had last year ruled that Aadhaar will only be voluntary. Prasad said the ‘mandatory vs voluntary’ debate is “meaningless” since an Act was now in place, and one may need Aadhaar to avail government subsidy.
“The scheme is that you must have an Aadhaar. If you don’t have an Aadhaar, go for Aadhaar. You are being encouraged to take an Aadhaar only if you want to take a benefit of subsidy. Otherwise don’t take it. Because subsidy — whether paid by the Centre or the state government — has to have flow from the Consolidated Fund of India,” he said. “This condition (of Aadhaar) is only and only imposed on those who want subsidy or a service or benefit going from Consolidated Fund of India.”
Prasad also said the government was “very conscious” to follow SC orders regarding only schemes prescribed by SC for Aadhaar using it.
He stressed that there will be “no denial (of service) per se” and a provision is there to provide it by an alternate identity mechanism if a person does not have Aadhaar. “You are being encouraged to get an Aadhaar but delivery will not be stopped.”
Asked if that alternate mechanism was only an interim measure till the person gets Aadhaar, he said: “Obviously…there have to be certain pre-conditions or not?” The minister said there is a statutory segregation for good governance in subsidies flowing from the consolidated fund, and that agencies handling subsidies will help people get Aadhaar.
Taking the example of a person buying ration on a ration card, he said, “Under the regulations, to make life easier, the person may not have to run from pillar to post for Aadhaar. The agency requiring Aadhaar will itself become a registrar.”
But in case the person does not wish to use Aadhaar to get rations, “then don’t take ration on the ration card, go to the market”, Prasad said.
Asked about companies like Apple and Google not warming up to government’s suggestion to various telecom companies of making their mobiles Aadhaar-enabled, Prasad said many companies who “don’t like it now may re-think” in future. “The huge Indian market is available. Utility of Aadhaar is proven…If you feel happy, come,” Prasad said.
He said Aadhaar is “ideology neutral, politics neutral and only good governance positive”. The utility which the Centre had shown of Aadhaar was “winning us friends every day” in form of various states because of savings. “Close to `36,000 crore have been saved by only a limited application of Aadhaar. It is a huge amount,” Prasad said.
He said the privacy aspect of Aadhaar addressed in the Act was at par with principles of phone tapping approved by SC. “Any abuse of data beyond the boundaries of this act shall not be tolerated,” Prasad said.