Don’t be surprised if in the near future, filing a police complaint requires a person to produce Aadhaar number as all services, benefits and subsidies that are paid out of the Consolidated Fund of India will necessarily require the unique identity number.
After making Aadhaar compulsory for availing senior citizen discount on railway tickets, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and Employees’ Provident Fund, the government may soon make Aadhaar, issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India, a required identity proof for all such services.
“Increasingly yes, that will happen. Under the Aadhaar Act, passed by Parliament, any subsidy, benefit or service for which money is going out of the Consolidated Fund of India, the government is empowered to use Aadhaar,” said a senior government official requesting anonymity.
All government receipts such as taxes and loans make up the Consolidated Fund of India and all expenses barring the exceptional ones are met through this corpus. As on December 31, a total of Rs 43,856 crore has been transferred to the beneficiaries through the Aadhaar payment bridge.
The NDA government has made Aadhaar the cornerstone of its policies and schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and others under the Digital India initiative such as DigiLocker, eSign and Jeevan Pramaan, among others, critically depend on the biometrics-based unique identity.
The current government had earlier tried to make the use of Aadhaar mandatory for availing services and subsidies, but the move was challenged in the Supreme Court by petitioners on grounds of data security.
However, the apex court in October 2015 allowed the government to use the identity on voluntary basis for selected purposes including MGNREGS, PMJDY, pensions by central and state governments, and the Employees’ Provident Fund Scheme, in addition to the already allowed use in the public distribution system and the distribution of cooking gas and kerosene.
In March 2016, the government passed the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, as a money bill thus backing the unique identity by law which it earlier lacked. “Considering the advantage of Aadhaar, every department will be motivated to use this infrastructure because if you are going to interact with anyone, don’t you have a right to know who the person is?” asked the official quoted above, adding that non-usage of Aadhaar may be contended in the future.
“Tomorrow the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) can take objection that if a better system was available, why was it not availed to check who is receiving benefits. So, anywhere where there is subsidy and benefits are flowing, Aadhaar will be required,” the official added.
The Constitution bench of the Supreme Court is still to be constituted to hear the Aadhaar case.
According to the official, Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act says that to avail services paid out of the Consolidated Fund of India will require Aadhaar, and if one does not have it, she/he will be required to enrol. Also for those who are entitled for Aadhaar but don’t have a number assigned will get services by making an application that they did apply, but didn’t receive or there are no enrolment centres available in the area. However, one who does not want to enrol will have to forfeit the benefit because the the law says so.