Home / Politics / Policy /  Fresh concerns for UIDAI pending statutory backing

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the validity of documents signed between the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and agencies that use its services, the concerns arising pending the lack of statutory backing for the body.

Justice J. Chelameswar asked if documents such as the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between UIDAI and the Delhi government should have been signed in the name and on behalf of the President, given that the body is only an attached office of the Planning Commission and not an independent legal entity. The government will respond in subsequent proceedings.

The National Identification Authority of India Bill that intends to give statutory backing to UIDAI was introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2010 and was later modified and cleared by the cabinet in October, but is yet to be passed by Parliament.

UIDAI issues Aadhaar numbers to all residents after biometric and other verification that the Union and state governments and other agencies can use to transfer welfare benefits.

The counsel for the petitioners presented their arguments afresh before an expanded three-judge Supreme Court bench led by Justice B.S. Chauhan and including judges M.Y. Eqbal and Chelameswar.

Chauhan had earlier heard the case with Justice S.A. Bobde as part of a two-judge bench that was expanded given the large number of petitioners and respondents in the case. Bobde isn’t a part of the expanded bench.

A person aware of the development said the Union government usually does not enter into MoU with state governments going by precedents and protocol. An MoU is a formalization of a relationship and not an agreement, this person said, requesting anonymity. However, according to a document on its website, UIDAI has entered into agreements with 87 authentication user agencies (AUAs) to provide authentication services.

These services are defined in a November version of the UIDAI-AUA agreement template as “where the personal identity information or data of an Aadhaar-holder (who is a beneficiary, customer, employee or associate of the AUA) is matched with their personal identity information or data that is stored in the UIDAI’s Central Identity Data Repository in order to provide Aadhaar-enabled services to such Aadhaar holder."

Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran told the Supreme Court bench that the matter will be looked into.

Meanwhile, a cabinet committee decided on Tuesday that UIDAI will be responsible for biometrics enrolment and for issuing Aadhaar in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand.

Districts in these states have come under the government’s direct benefits transfer programme without sufficient beneficiaries having an Aadhaar number. Only those people who are identified by their Aadhaar numbers in “beneficiary databases" receive the benefit payment.

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