The two-year-old SC stay held back the government from asking for Aadhaar numbers to transfer benefits under social welfare programmes
Seeking to make the enrollment of citizens for Aadhaar cards under the initiative launched by the previous UPA government mandatory, the finance ministry on Thursday requested the Supreme Court to vacate its two-year-old stay order that restrained the government from asking for Aadhar numbers to transfer benefits under various social welfare schemes.
In its fresh application, the NDA government has told the apex court that it intends to make the Unique Identify Scheme under the Planning Commission applicable to other government schemes such as obtaining passports, PAN cards, immigration, railways, telecommunications and prison management systems.
The stay order — issued on September 23, 2013 and later reiterated on March 16, 2015 — has had a bearing on the effective implementation of the direct benefits transfers (DBT), the application said.
Financial benefits are now being transferred on the basis of bank account numbers. But it is not possible to locate the fakes, ghosts and duplications in the system — something which can be easily done if Aadhar numbers are provided, the application said, promising the government would take all safeguards during the enrollment.
According to the government, the Unique Identity Scheme and DBT programme are the two important initiatives which are for the “better management of subsidies.
The government has said the scheme has been a “tremendous success” and it has decided to extend it from the earlier 35 schemes to all its projects involving cash transfers. It further added that the scheme is of immense value as it has helped the government in streamlining the MGNREGA database.
It said that during 2014-15, the government has spent more than R4 lakh crore on various welfare programmes like subsidies in LPG, kerosene, food, health, grant of scholarships, pension etc. “Since the government is spending so much resources for the upliftment of the poor and downtrodden of the society, it is in the overall interest of the nation that these benefits reach to the right people… The unique identity provided by the scheme is very useful in accurate identification of the eligible persons,” the application stated.
The Congress-led UPA government had in 2009 formed the authority and launched the programme subsequently to eliminate leaks in subsidies and other social benefits like gas subsidies etc. However, various individuals had challenged it, saying it lacks sanction of law and is invasive in nature. The PIL by one Mathew Thomas has alleged that the security credentials of agencies collecting information from citizens were not thoroughly scrutinised.
However, the apex court has asked the central and state governments not to deny social benefits to anyone on the grounds that a person lacks an Aadhaar card. On the last hearing, Chief Justice of India H L Dattu had promised to constitute a new bench to hear the case. The matter is now listed for hearing on July 21.