|Must or not?
New Delhi, Oct. 3: The Centre has decided to move an urgent application tomorrow requesting the Supreme Court to modify its September 23 order that said non-possession of Aadhaar cards couldn’t be cited as a reason to deny government benefits.
A senior official said the government wants the court to clarify or modify the interim order to the extent that the card should be considered as a valid proof of identity, or else some of the welfare schemes that have been launched could be “adversely” affected.
The government has asked solicitor general Mohan Parasaran to mention the matter before the apex court tomorrow for early listing of the application. The decision was taken after law minister Kapil Sibal and others in the government consulted the solicitor general on how to overcome the situation caused by the court’s order.
Informed sources told The Telegraph that while the government agreed with the apex court that the Aadhaar card couldn’t be made mandatory since it does not have statutory backing, various welfare schemes would suffer if it was given no legitimacy because of the order.
“We will be requesting the court that the Aadhaar card should be treated as a valid identity card for the beneficiaries. Yes, it may not be made mandatory, but certainly it would help the government eliminate unscrupulous elements and bogus claimants to various welfare schemes involving several thousand crores of rupees from the exchequer,” the senior official said.
Before the court’s interim order, Aadhaar cards were being used in the delivery of a host of welfare schemes that covered public distribution, integrated child development, rural employment, universal education, old age pension and health, among others.
But the court said no states or Union territories could deny social or other government benefits on the ground that the Aadhaar card was not available. The bench also directed the government to ensure that no illegal migrants were granted the card.
Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde passed the order while posting for final disposal hearing of a PIL filed by K.S. Puttaswamy, a retired high court judge from Karnataka, who had questioned the constitutional validity of the scheme. The petitioner had alleged that the card was being given even to illegal migrants, posing a threat to national security.
The PIL said the “linkage of Aadhaar number with various governmental benefits and services… makes enrolment with (the) Aadhaar scheme… mandatory, thereby completely falsifying the government’s claim of it being voluntary”.