The Modi government will give a statutory backing to Aadhaar, the unique identification scheme, and bill to this effect would be introduced in the ongoing budget session of Parliament, finance minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday while presenting the Union Budget.
The Aadhaar scheme, part of the government’s JAM -- Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar and Mobile number – policy, is currently under challenge from civil rights groups in the Supreme Court. The lack of any legal backing is one of the grounds on which Aadhaar has faced criticism.
The Supreme Court has since restricted the use of Aadhaar, key to the government’s plan to shift to cash transfers, to the public distribution system and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
“First, we will introduce a bill for Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services by using the Aadhaar framework. The bill will be introduced in the current budget session of the Parliament. The Aadhaar number or authentication shall not, however, confer any right of citizenship or domicile,” Jaitley said.
A social security platform would also be developed using Aadhar to accurately target beneficiaries. “This will be a transformative piece of legislation which will benefit the poor and the vulnerable,” the finance minister said.
The government looks to expand the use of Aadhaar, Jaitley said. “Second, we have already introduced Direct Benefit Transfer in LPG. Based on this successful experience, we propose to introduce DBT on pilot basis for fertilizer in a few districts across the country, with a view to improving the quality of service delivery to farmers,” the finance minister said.
The government’s move to introduce a bill could help it overcome the legal challenges in linking Aadhaar to a host of government services. The Supreme Court has also asked a constitutional bench to look into whether Aadhaar, which is based on biometric markers, violates citizens’ right to privacy.
The Supreme Court bench will decide where the right to privacy is a fundamental right. Petitioners who have contested the Aadhaar project claim it violates right to privacy by collecting and sharing biometric data of citizens.
The overall aim is “the enactment of a law to ensure that all government benefits are conferred upon persons who deserve it, by giving a statutory backing to the Aadhaar platform”, Jaitley said.
Currently, over 98 crore Aadhaar numbers have been generated. An average of 2.6 million biometric and over 150,000 lakh e-transactions are made under it.
The government has been able to connect Aadhaar numbers with 111.9 million direct-benefits-transfer accounts of a total 165 million beneficiaries. A National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 is already pending in the Rajya Sabha.