The government has notified all but one of the remaining sections of Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsides, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, giving legal backing for its use in various government schemes.
On 12 September, it had notified sections pertaining to the mandatory use of Aadhaar.
Expectations are that with this, the ongoing legal challenge to Aadhaar pending in the Supreme Court will be restricted to the issue of privacy. The Constitution bench is yet to be constituted, though the reference was made a year ago on 11 August.
The government’s top law officer, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, confirmed the notification of the legislation will override all concerns.
“The earlier challenge against mandatory use was against an executive notification that conceived Aadhaar. Now, the law takes care of all concerns surrounding potential misuse."
Consequently, the government can now use the 12-digit unique identification number for identifying beneficiaries of social welfare schemes and disbursing subsidies.
All the provisions of the legislation have been formally notified, with the exception of the one dealing with salaries of employees of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the issuer of Aadhaar.
As of now, the use of Aadhaar is restricted by interim orders of the apex court to the transfer of cooking gas subsidy, the public distribution system, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), all types of pension schemes, the employees provident fund and the Jan Dhan Yojana.
Legal troubles have followed the legislation, with both the apex court and the Delhi high court hearing pleas against the government’s mandatory use of Aadhaar for schemes such as scholarships for students and food distribution. It will have to be seen if these cases will be resolved with the notifying of the Act.
S.L. Rao, a Bengaluru-based sociologist and former director general of the National Council for Applied Economic Research, said, “I think it is a good move if Aadhaar is being made compulsory, but people need to be assured about Aadhaar being an authentic form of identification, as biometrics can be misused."
Another case, challenging the passage of the Aadhaar law as a money bill, is also pending in the apex court. A money bill does not need the consent of Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority.
In March, the government got the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill passed, after introducing it as a money bill. Earlier, UIDAI was backed by a 2009 notification of the now- defunct Planning Commission.
Last week, as part of provisions of the Act, the government appointed former information technology secretary J. Satyanarayana as part-time chairperson of UIDAI, and Rajesh Jain, founder and managing director of netCORE solutions, an IT-based firm, and Anand Deshpande, founder and chief executive officer of Persistent Systems, as part-time members.
As of now, the enrolment in the Aadhaar scheme has reached 1.05 billion.
Priyanka Mittal also contributed to the story.