On a day it faced some tough questions from the Supreme Court over the legal regime behind the Aadhaar card,the Union Cabinet Tuesday approved the National Identification Authority of India (NIAI) Bill to accord UIDAI a statutory backing.
The Bill,which got cleared with some amendments,gives a statutory status to the UIDAI,which issues the 12-digit Aadhaar numbers to residents of the country. The UIDAI currently operates through an executive order.
The development came while a Bench of Justices B S Chauhan and S A Bobde asked the Attorney General in the court as to what was the legal status of Aadhaar and how the government could link it to various schemes.
There is no difficulty if somebody comes to you (government) voluntarily for getting an Aadhaar card but not otherwise. Anyway,how are you doing it? Is it being made under any Act or other law? the Bench asked AG G E Vahanvati.
Vahanvati apprised the court that it was currently being implemented as a policy of the government. What happened to the law or the proposed law? We read about it somewhere. All this (problem) will be over if a law is brought, said the Bench. In a lighter vein,the Bench also said the government could also bring an ordinance if Parliament was not in session.
The AG,who appeared for the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas,informed the court that the Cabinet was deliberating over the Bill as the proceedings were on and a decision was likely. He also requested the Bench to modify the interim order,restricting all authorities from denying a benefit or service to any citizen of India for want of the Aadhaar card.
The Bench however said it would pass further orders only after hearing all the parties at length. It then issued notices on the governments applications for modifying the court order to the PIL petitioner Justice K S Puttaswamy,a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court who has challenged the legal validity of the Aadhaar scheme of the Unique Identification Authority of India. It will now hear the matter on October 22.
According to sources,the Bill that was cleared at the Cabinet meet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will now be tabled during the winter session of Parliament. The proposed law seeks to establish the National Identification Authority of India (NIAI) to issue unique identification Aadhaar numbers. It also prohibits the sharing of data without the consent of the resident unless approved by a court order or for national security and defines penalties in case of misuse of data collected. The amended Bill also says the Aadhaar number can be issued to all residents of the country.