Aadhaar was made mandatory to ensure the poor get subsidised foodgrains under the public distribution system (PDS), the Centre told the Delhi High Court today.
Terming PDS as a “misused system”, the Centre told a bench of acting chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra that through Aadhaar, the endeavour was to ensure that the real beneficiaries get foodgrains.
“Aadhaar is mandatory for PDS, as this system is mostly misused in our country. The subsidised foodgrains were not reaching the poor. Someone else were availing the benefit..,” additional solicitor general (ASG) Sanjay Jain said.
He said around 2.33 crore ration cards, used to get the benefit under the PDS scheme, turned out to be fake.
The ASG, who was assisted by central government standing counsel Bhagvan Swarup Shukla, also said the government had given time to those people who do not have the biometric-based unique identification number to apply for Aadhaar by June 30.
Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) after collecting biometric data of the citizens.
The Centre’s response came in the backdrop of a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking quashing of the Centre’s February 8 notification making Aadhaar card mandatory for availing benefits under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
The plea has alleged that it violates the basic principle of law enshrined in Article 14 (equality) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.
The Centre, however, sought dismissal of the PIL, saying a similar plea was pending for consideration before the Supreme Court.
The ASG submitted that for checking of leakages and diversion of foodgrains, the Centre is also asking all the states and union territories (UTs) to opt for direct transfer of food subsidy (cash and kind).
The Delhi government sought more time to file its stand on the plea which seeks disbursal of subsidised foodgrains to the beneficiaries under the NFSA, without asking for Aadhaar.
The court granted it time till May 25, the next date of hearing in the matter, to file its response.
The notification came into effect from February 8 in all states and UTs, except Assam, Meghalaya and Jammu and Kashmir.
Under the NFSA, which was rolled out across the country in November last year, five kgs of foodgrains per person is provided each month at Rs 1-3 per kg to over 80 crore people.
A social organisation - Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan - has moved the high court seeking to enforce the fundamental right to food to the residents of Delhi, particularly the poor and vulnerable groups which are dependent on subsidised foodgrains distributed by the Delhi government through the PDS, which it claims is severely impaired by the notification.
Challenging the constitutional vires of the Aadhaar project, the plea has said that due to the enforcement of the notification, people are being deprived of their rightful entitlement under the NFSA.
It said the apex court in an interim order in October 2015 had allowed voluntary use of Aadhaar and ruled that no citizen can be denied a service or subsidy for want of it.
The plea further alleged that the Centre’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for subsidised food goes against the apex court’s interim order and places the most vulnerable at the risk of being left out of the food security net.