Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has joined government and PSU oil firms against the Supreme Court order making Aadhaar card not mandatory for availing social benefits saying,its directive has “very serious implications” in the implementation of welfare schemes.
The UIDAI also contended that its order dated September 23,putting the onus on it to check that Aadhaar card should not be given to illegal immigrants,impinges on the jurisdiction of the appropriate authorities that are entrusted with the task of veryfying citizenship.
In an application before the Supreme Court,the UIDAI ubmitted that Aadhaar is stated to be a proof of identity and there are other agencies to perform the task of verifying citizenship and detecting illegal immigrants.
“UIDAI has been mandated to provide Aadhaar cards to resident of India as a matter of conscious policy decision of government. Aadhaar is upfront stated to be a proof of identity,not citizenship. It may be mentioned the government has specific agencies to perform the task of verifying citizenship and detecting illegal immigrants,” it said.
“The interim order of the court in directing UIDAI to check the citizenship status of a person applying for Aadhaar and identifying illegal immigrants impinges on the jurisdiction of the appropriate authorities under law that are entrusted with this task,” it said while pleading with the court to modify the interim order against which Centre and Oil PSUs have already approached the apex court.
The Authority said it is following a sound verification method for enrolment for Aadhaar and there is no proof that it has opened the “floodgates for entry of illegal migrants into the system”.
“Having enrolled over 53 crore residents,there is no empirical proof to suggest that the adopted methodology is not robust and has opened the floodgates for entry of illegal migrants into the system.
Exceptions,aberrations and anecdotal cases cannot be reasons to doubt,malign or undo government schemes and administrative measures manifestly serving desired public policy ends,” said the UIADI application.
The apex court had on September 23 said,”In the meanwhile,no person should suffer for not getting the Ada card in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory and when any person applies to get the Aadhaar card voluntarily,it may be checked whether that person is entitled for it under the law and it should not be given to any illegal immigrant.”
The order had come during the hearing of a PIL filed by Justice K Puttaswamy,former high court judge,seeking to restrain the Centre,Planning Commission and UIDAI from issuing Aadhaar cards by way of an executive order of January 28,2009.
Citing various benefits of the Aadhaar card,the Authority submitted that “as part of its pro-poor approach the UIDAI focuses on enrolling India’s poor and under privileged community for many of whom Aadhaar may be the first form of identification but no one gets enrolled for Aadhaar without undergoing the prescribed method of verification.”
It said that as on September 30,more than 53 crore residents have enrolled for Aadhaar and an amount of Rs 3494 crore has been incurred on the programme by the Center and Oil marketing companies have detected around 45,000 duplicate LPG connections on the basis of Aadhaar numbers which would save the exchequer around Rs 23 crore per annum.
“The introduction of Aadhaar needs to be seen in the same vein and as a part of the continuing quest of the government to improve efficient and transparent delivery of public services. The government recognises it as a strategic policy tool for social inclusion,public sector delivery reform and for managing the fiscal deficit,” the UIADI said.
It submitted that Aadhaar is a technology-driven effort of inducing efficiency and accuracy in identified government services and “Aadhaar is the official proof of identity programme of the Centre and its special identity programme needs to be acknowledged and preserved”.
Pleading for modification of interim order,the Authority said,”The interim order has very serious implications in the implementation of the Aadhaar scheme and has created doubts in the minds of the several crores of residents of India who have already enrolled under the scheme.”
It further submitted that no person is denied any service for want of Aadhaar and it is made conditional only for getting subsidies.
“The instructions issued for implementation of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) clearly states that no person should be denied service for want of having Aadhaar or Bank Account. Care has been taken to ensure there is no denial of service by introducing this scheme only in districts with a reasonable coverage of Aadhaar,” it said.
“There is no disruption of service (supply of LPG at market price) to consumers who do not provide Aadhaar as only subsidies,and not service,has been made conditional on providing Aadhaar number,” the Authority said.
“An elected polity is responding to the felt needs of its constituency. This task has to be left to the wisdom and best judgement of a representative government which will ensure that adequate time and opportunity is given to individuals to obtain Aadhaar before its use is mandated for any government application,” it said.
The Centre,on October 8,had failed to get any relief on Aadhaar card being made compulsory for availing social benefits,particularly gas cylinder subsidies,from the Supreme Court which turned down its plea to modify its interim order that no person be deprived of any schemes for want of Aadhaar.
A batch of top government lawyers including Attorney General G E Vahanvati and Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran,who represented the Centre and various oil PSUs,tried unsuccessfully to convince the court to modify its order,saying that it would severely affect grant of gas subsidies and the entire distribution system in 97 districts would come to a standstill.