New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Thursday appointed advocate Zoheb Hossain to assist the court on problems being faced by people due to denial of ration entitlements under Aadhaar.
A division bench headed by acting chief justice, Gita Mittal directed Hossain to meet with people who were being excluded from benefits due to the mandatory nature of Aadhaar and submit a report to the court.
In April, the Centre had told the 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 and prevent misuse.
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The court was hearing 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.
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.
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 court has appointed me to bridge the gap between the department (food ministry) and the petitioner. As a local commissioner, I will be acting independently to examine the situation on ground to ascertain how the notification is working.", Zoheb Hossain told Mint.
The matter will be heard next on 1 September.