In what could be its first explicit and public endorsement of the previous UPA government’s ambitious Aadhaar project, the NDA government is expected to tell the Supreme Court Friday that Aadhaar is legal and valid under the provisions of the Constitution.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had sought the NDA government’s stand on the validity and the manner of collecting information for the Aadhaar card under the aegis of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in response to a Public Interest Litigation. Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar had sought time till February 13 to give the government’s stand.
While the BJP had expressed reservations with Aadhaar when it was launched by the Congress-led UPA government, its own dispensation has given the project a decisive push since coming to power. Aadhaar has been made the basis of several social sector programmes and linked to key schemes, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself having shown keen interest in it. However, the government has not publicly made its stand on Aadhaar clear so far.
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According to officials, the government will state that Aadhaar issued by the UIDAI is legal and valid under Article 77 of the Constitution that validates an executive action of the government, taken in the name of the President.
The UIDAI does not have a legal backing and was created through an executive order of the government. The National Identification Authority of India Bill, which seeks to make UIDAI a statutory body, has been in cold storage. Sources say the Bill may have to be revived now with the government relying on Aadhaar for several schemes and the court raising questions.
Moreover, while UIDAI was established as an attached office of the Planning Commission, there is ambiguity over whose aegis it falls under now ever since the Plan body was disbanded to make way for NITI Aayog.
The PIL moved by Mathew George, a retired Army officer, has alleged that the security credentials of agencies collecting information from citizens were not thoroughly scrutinised. It further challenged the provision under the Citizenship Act, which empowered the Centre to issue national identity cards despite allegedly being in breach of the fundamental rights relating to privacy and dignity.