New Delhi: The central government Monday told the Delhi high court that Aadhaar was made mandatory for accessing the public distribution system (PDS) to ensure that the real beneficiaries were able to get subsidised foodgrains.
“PDS is being misused and the idea is to prevent misuse so that middlemen are not able to take advantage. It has to be seen that the poor and vulnerable are able to avail benefits of PDS under the National Food Security Act (NFSA)," additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain told a bench headed by acting chief justice Gita Mittal.
He added that use of Aadhaar, the 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for PDS was different from its linkage with the PAN card.
The Centre was responding to a public interest litigation (PIL) by Delhi Rozi-Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, an association engaged in advocating and implementing right to food which sought quashing of the Centre’s 8 February notification which directs adoption of mandatory Aadhaar-based authentication for the purpose of food grain distribution by states.
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The notification came into effect in all states and Union territories, except Assam, Meghalaya and Jammu and Kashmir.
The petition claimed that the mandatory use of Aadhaar for PDS stood in violation of a series of orders passed by the apex court holding that no citizen could be denied a service or benefit for not holding an Aadhaar card and its use was voluntary.
The Centre’s notification has been passed without taking note of the ground level problems and its impact on the fundamental right to food and statutory rights under the NFSA of beneficiaries who are poor and often depend on the smooth functioning of the PDS scheme for food security, the petition held.
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Challenging Aadhaar’s mandatory nature, it further alleged that the notification violated Article 21 (Right to life) as it infringes on the right to food of the rightful beneficiaries of the PDS scheme.
A similar challenge to the mandatory use of Aadhaar for benefits under the NFSA is pending before the Supreme Court.
The case will be heard next on 25 May.