The Lok Sabha passed the Aadhaar bill a second time on Wednesday evening, rejecting five amendments made less than an hour earlier by the Rajya Sabha that underscored its reservations about provisions in the proposed legislation.
The Lok Sabha’s disapproval completes the legislative process for enacting the bill to ensure targeted delivery of subsidies through the Aadhaar platform. The Lower House has the privilege to reject the Rajya Sabha’s amendments since the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, was treated as a money bill.
The proposed law that will come into force after the President’s assent mandates that people receiving benefits from the government should have the 12-digit unique identification number called Aadhaar.
Also, the government will have the power to make it compulsory for people accessing its services to have the Aadhaar number. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has issued Aadhaar to 77% of the 1.28 billion people in the country since the first number was issued in 2010.
Among the amendments moved by Congress parliamentarian Jairam Ramesh and cleared by the Rajya Sabha was a clause that prevented the government from making Aadhaar compulsory.
Most opposition parties either supported the amendments or walked out to protest against the provisions in the NDA government’s bill.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley defended the bill in both Houses, seeking to address privacy concerns, misuse of biometric data of individuals, circumstances under which it could be shared, and oversight of the scheme.
He said the bill has better provisions in protecting people’s privacy than the one brought by the Congress-led UPA coalition when it was in power.
The Aadhaar scheme has drawn criticism since the number is issued after collecting and registering a person’s biometric data, which people felt could be misused.
Ramesh flagged concerns about the law being misused as it gave sweeping powers to authorities on the grounds of national security. Revealing that he himself did not possess an Aadhaar card, he cautioned against a situation when it could be required for buying air tickets or getting a phone number.
On turning it into a money bill, he said it was like knocking a nail in the coffin of the Upper House.
Jaitley responded: “I think the stand of Jairam depends on where he sits.”
He rejected suggestions that the oversight mechanism should involve the CAG or the CVC as it fell outside their domain.
Ramesh accused Jaitley of misleading Parliament by giving incorrect information that a bill on juvenile justice and another on the African Development Bank were brought by the government as money bills in the ’80s. Jaitley clarified that he obtained the information from the Lok Sabha website.