The Minister of Law and Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad also concurred with Supreme Court’s observation saying that Aadhaar cards are not mandatory for delivery of pro-poor initiatives. In this regard he said on Tuesday that ” Supreme Court itself had permitted delivery of many pro-poor initiatives via application of Aadhar, but want to make it clear that its not mandatory”.
Earlier government had issued a number of circulars making Aadhaar mandatory to access welfare schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and Employees Pension Scheme. Mr Prasad further clarified that If any person doesn’t have Aadhaar cards, other IDs like ration card and driving license can also be used.
The Supreme Court had on Monday made it clear that Aadhaar cards cannot be made mandatory by the government for extending benefits of social welfare schemes. However, the apex court had said that the government cannot be barred from seeking these cards, for “non-benefit” purposes like filing of IT returns and opening of accounts.
Chief Justice JS Khehar heading a bench said “for giving benefits of welfare schemes, it (Aadhaar ) cannot be pressed but the government and its agencies cannot be stopped from seeking aadhaar for non-benefit schemes like opening of bank accounts.” The bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, meanwhile, declined to fix a date of hearing on a batch of petitions challenging Constitutional validity of Aadhaar.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for one of the petitioners, alleged that the Central government is not following the various orders passed by the apex court that the usage of Aadhaar would be voluntary and not mandatory.
He also referred to certain recent decisions of the government including making Aadhaar mandatory for issuance of driving licenses and filing of IT returns and by making the cards, issued by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), mandatory, the government is committing “contempt of court”.
“The interim orders from time to time is not the solution. Final disposal of the matter is the solution,” the bench said, adding various orders have already been passed that Aadhaar is not mandatory for taking benefits of welfare schemes.
The apex court on August 11, 2015 had said that Aadhaar cards will not be mandatory for availing benefits of government’s welfare schemes and barred the authorities from sharing personal biometric data collected for enrollment under the scheme.
However, on October 15, 2015 it had lifted its earlier restriction and permitted the voluntary use of Aadhaar cards in welfare schemes that also included MGNREGA, all pension schemes and the provident fund besides ambitious flagship programmes like ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna’ of the NDA government.