There seems to be no end to the government’s legal troubles.
The human resource development (HRD) ministry has made Aadhaar mandatory for government scholarship and fellowship from this academic year, a move that violates the Supreme Court’s order.
Under this decision, the government will transfer the funds to the students’ bank accounts only after they submit their Aadhaar number.
The court had last August barred the government from using Aadhaar for any purpose other than distributing food grain and cooking fuel such as kerosene and LPG. The SC had gone further to rule that production of Aadhaar would not be condition for obtaining any benefits due to a citizen.
It was this SC order that prompted the government to push the Aadhaar law through Parliament to ensure that the court’s restriction did not come in the way of expanding the direct benefit transfer project.
The law – that was passed by Parliament – gave the government powers to make Aadhaar mandatory for receiving any benefit, facility or service that involved any expenditure from the public exchequer.
But most provisions of the Aadhaar law have not come into force yet.
This week, it notified provisions that enabled it to appoint the chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that issues the 12-digit unique number and set up offices in cities outside Delhi.
“This appears to be contempt of court,” said Sunil Abraham, head of the Bengaluru-headquartered advocacy group, Centre for Internet and Society.
Thomas Mathew, one of the petitioners in the case pending before the Supreme Court, agreed. “I am going to move a contempt petition against the HRD ministry and UGC,” Mathew said, pointing that oil companies were also forcing people to get Aadhaar.
The UGC directive to central universities sets July-end as the deadline for scholars at central universities to get their Aadhaar number. Many scholars who did not have an Aadhaar number said the fellowship were an important source of income for them to get by.