After Supreme Court on Monday ordered that Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory for availing welfare schemes of the government, the latter too clarified that identity proofs other than Aadhaar can also be used to avail the scheme benefits.
“I wish to make it very clear that Aadhaar is not mandatory for the benefits of welfare schemes. If any person does not have Aadhaar, other identity proofs from ration to driving licence can be used,” Union Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Tuesday.
He said the apex court itself in its interim order has instructed the government that Aadhaar can be used in delivery of many subsidy-based, pro-poor schemes such as MGNREGA, but it will not be mandatory.
The Law Minister said it is also clearly written in the Aadhaar Act that no eligible person will be deprived of any benefits if he or she does not have Aadhaar card.
“But at the same time as per the provision of the Aadhaar Act, attempts will be made to bring all people under its ambit,” he said.
Emphasising on the importance of Aadhaar card, Prasad said the government has been able to save Rs 50,000 crore by using it.
Even as the Centre has made Aadhaar number mandatory for filing income tax returns, along with availing benefits under the flurry of schemes, the Supreme Court on Monday had said that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for extending benefits of government’s welfare schemes.
The court, however, added that government cannot be stopped from using Aadhaar in other schemes like opening of bank accounts.
A bench comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices DY Chandrachud and SK Kaul also told that a seven-judge bench needed to be constituted for authoritatively deciding a batch of petitions challenging the Aadhaar scheme on grounds including that it infringes on the Right to Privacy of citizens.
It, however, expressed inability in setting up of the seven-judge bench saying it would be decided at a later stage.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for one of the petitioners, alleged that the Central government is not following the past orders by the apex court that the usage of Aadhaar would be voluntary and not mandatory.
The apex court on August 11, 2015 had said that Aadhaar card will not be mandatory for availing benefits of government’s welfare schemes and barred the authorities from sharing personal biometric data collected for enrolment 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.
In a latest development, the Central government has instructed telecom operators to re-verify all their existing subscribers of mobile services to go for Aadhaar-based eKYC process.
The move to make Aadhaar card mandatory has been repeatedly opposed by the Opposition parties.
(With inputs from the Agencies)