Dogs roam a slaughter house which has been shut due to strike protesting the closure of slaughterhouses
BENGALURU: Hardline Hindu organisations in Bengaluru are trying to enforce vegetarianism even as five BJP-ruled states — Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh — have followed in the footsteps of the Uttar Pradesh government by clamping down on illegal slaughterhouses.
Various cow protection organisations, including Gau Samrakshana Prakoshta and Karnataka Federation of Gaushaalas, have demanded that 1700 meat shops in the city be closed down as they are “unauthorised”. Sundarraj Pai, Karnataka convenor of the Prakoshta, claimed that only 43 meat shops in Bengaluru are licensed by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).
Gau rakshaks emphasise that the Karnataka HC had directed in a verdict in 1997 that slaughterhouses and meat shops should be shifted outside the city’s municipal limits where human habitation is scarce.
“We must take Uttar Pradesh as a model where meat shop owners are voluntarily closing down their outlets,” said Karnataka Federation of Goshaalas leader Raghavendra.
Reacting to the gau rakshaks’ plans, Karnataka minister K J Geroge said: “BJPwants to replicate the Yogi brand of saffron politics in Karnataka ahead of elections… But our government will never allow communal politics to thrive.”
Meanwhile, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists from Vidarbha want the Maharashtra assembly to replicate the Gujarat law enhancing punishment for cow slaughter to life term. “We want similar law in Maharashtra, where illegal slaughtering is rampant,” said Rajkumar Sharma, convenor of Nagpur unit of Bajrang Dal.
The sentiment about banning abattoirs has spread all the way across to Rajasthan now. In a recent development, about three dozen Hindu religious leaders had gathered in Jaipur (meeting was held at Laxminarayan Temple at Badi Chaupar by Devalaya Sanrakshan Samiti of Rajasthan) and they demanded a ban on abattoirs too. However, their demand was not restricted just to their state instead, they wanted the imposition of a total ban and its implementation across the country.
The crackdown against illegal slaughterhouses had been first launched as soon as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took over in Uttar Pradesh. But the initial activity cooled down considerably as days went by and it was just yesterday (Thursday) that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath met meat traders and assured that no wrongful action will be taken against them. After the meeting, an industry spokesman Sirajuddin Qureshi had urged meat traders to get back to their work as the UP government has assured that they will help them to procure licenses to carry on their trade – illegal slaughterhouses and meat shops would however, not get relief.
In a statement, Swami Sampatkumar Avadheshacharya Ji Maharaj of Shri Galta Peeth said,”There are illegal abattoirs and the legal ones are undertaking illegal activities. So we demand that the government ban all of them.”
But even as the alleviating of tensions in UP did not affect the priests in Jaipur. Apart from raising their protest, they also passed a resolution asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to impose a total ban as it is associated with foreign culture.
“In our Dharma Sansad today, we have passed a resolution asking our PM Narendra Modi to impose a total ban on abattoirs across the country. To kill and feed on something is not Indian culture. It was the foreigners, the Mughals, who brought the business of abattoirs with them,” said Anjan Kumar Goswami, Mahant and sole trustee of the Shri Govind Dev Ji temple in Jaipur as reported by Indian Express
Avadheshacharya, president of the Samiti, after chairing the meeting said, “The meeting was called in light of the steps taken by UP government with regard to abattoirs. We welcome the move but this should have been done long ago. No religion says one should sacrifice humans or animals. People started this just for their “swaad aur swarth” (taste and selfishness).”
Another resolution stating the segregation of politics from the Ayodhya Ram temple was also passed. In the third resolution, the demand for the prohibition of all intoxication substances was passed as well.http://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/ban-all-slaughter-houses-across-india-says-dharma-sansad-resolution-in-jaipur/609803/
Chouhan announced the move while addressing the 89th passing out parade of Sub-Inspectors at MP Police Academy in the State capital.
The chief minister, who in the past has demanded death penalty for the rapists, said that the government would introduce a bill regarding this in the upcoming monsoon session of assembly.
He called for an environment where women do not feel apprehensive going out even after midnight. He asked the newly-inducted officers to take an oath not to err in keeping the dignity of women intact.
He urged the young officers to dismantle the network of mining mafia, liquor mafia, looters, and dacoits.
Chouhan heaped praises on MP Police for arresting terrorists accused of triggering blasts in Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train within three hours of the incident. “The credit for making MP an island of peace goes to the police,” he said.
Chouhan urged newly-inducted officers to distance themselves from middlemen and discharge duties with integrity.
Along with his repeated preaching against alcoholism and shutting down of liquor shops along the Narmada, a tough stance against sex crimes will earn him the goodwill of women — a crucial factor ahead of the 2018 assembly election. The CM is acutely aware that Madhya Pradesh has the shameful tag of being the rape capital of the country with 4,391 cases reported in 2015.
This is the third time Chouhan announced his stand on death penalty for rapists but the first time that he laid out a timeline. Speaking at the passing out parade of sub-inspectors on Friday, the CM said: “We will table a bill in the monsoon session of assembly to seek the death sentence for rape. Once it is passed, it will be forwarded to the President for assent.”
It is 2 pm at Jantar Mantar in Delhi and there is no relief from the scorching sun. Yet Kapoor Singh remained unfazed by the unrelenting heat that had forced many others to take shelter under trees. With sweat dripping down his wrinkled face, he said that he is father of Mahavir Singh, a Union leader at the Maruti Suzuki plant. Mahavir had recently been sentenced to life by a GurgaonSessions Court for killing a senior HR manager in a scuffle between workers and management at Maruti Suzuki plant in Manesar, Haryana, in 2012.
Singh is accompanied by Amarjit Singh, son of his elder brother, who have come all the way from Rohtak to attend a programme organised by Mazdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Abhiyan (MASA) – a broad platform of Trade Unions and workers organisations from across the country. The purpose of the gathering was to condemn the “anti-worker judgment” of the Sessions Court on 18 March in which close to 13 organisations participated.
Amidst loud sloganeering for workers’ unity and justice for Maruti workers, Amarjit confided that Mahavir couldn’t even attend the last rites of his younger brother who died a couple of years back. “His children are always asking their mother about Mahavir’s whereabouts and when he would return. She has no answers,” Amarjit said.
Maruti workers’ families and labour outfits protest at Jantar Mantar
Worried about what fate awaits his son, Kapoor Singh hopes Mahavir would get justice and would return to his wife and two children at Chandi village in Rohtak district of Haryana. “He has been in jail since five years, for no fault of his. No one knows who set the fire and killed the manager but my son has been falsely implicated by the management only because he was part of the Union. There is no evidence against him and yet he rots in jail,” he said.
However, he is hopeful that justice would be given to his son and that the Chandigarh High Court would set them free. “There were thousands of workers there, why have only 13 been convicted of murder? The management wants to discourage workers from joining unions and this is way to scare others. They want to send a message that whoever will be part of the union will bear the same fate,” claimed Kapoor Singh, who said that he will fight till his end to get justice for Mahavir.
Accusing the judiciary and the government of being biased towards workers, he said that the sentence has been given to please Japan. A 54.2%-owned subsidiary of Japanese automobile and motorcycle manufacturer Suzuki Motor Corporation, Maruti Suzuki is India’s largest automobile manufacturer.
On 18 July 2012, a fire broke out at this plant of India’s largest automobile manufacturer following a violent scuffle between the workers and managers leading to death of a senior HR executive, Awanish Kumar Dev, and injuries to several others. In fact, the Union calls Dev’s death as unfortunate and credits him for extending help in creating the union.
“Mr Dev’s unfortunate death is being used to target workers. We should not go by what the lower court said, considering how they have kept so many innocents in jail on charges of terrorism. Even the media is to be blamed. When these people are caught, their photos are splashed on the the front page and when they are acquitted because of no evidence, it is just a single column news,” said Birju Naik of the Mazdoor Ekta Committee.
He added that similarly in this case, the photo of the manager was put on front pages but no one reported that there is little evidence against any of those convicted.
In a statement released by MASA, it is said that the workers are being specifically targeted for their role as trade union leaders. “117 of the arrested Maruti workers have been acquitted after spending almost four years in prison, as no evidence and not a single witness against them could be produced in the trial process. This shows the shaky foundation of the case itself.”
It goes on to claim that if the evidence produced during trial and argument placed by the public prosecutor is followed, “it becomes clear that no evidence was produced to link any of these workers to the death of the manager”.
A banner put up by the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Abhiyan
Accusing the powerful management of influencing the government, labour department and police with money, the statement said that all of it was done to suppress the legitimate demands and struggles of workers in Maruti. “The only crime of the Maruti workers is that since 2011 they struggled for forming a union, for abolition of Contract Worker System, for dignity in workplace, and their legitimate Trade Union rights – all within the ambit of the law of the land,” read the statement.
Meanwhile, Khushi Ram, general secretary of the Mazdoor Sahyog Kendra, Gurgaon, who was also the part of the Union, said that they would continue to fight for justice and would organise the workers to protest against this harsh judgment. Earlier, on 23 March, the a large number of workers took out a protest march in Manesar to protest against the judgment of the Sessions Court. On 18 March, the day of the verdict, 30,000 workers did a tool down strike while many others have been boycotting lunch in solidarity with those convicted.
Khushi Ram informs that they have support of thousands of workers in and around Manesar and protests, hartals and lunch boycotts would continue till justice is done. They are also organising a nation-wide protest on 4 April to take this issue to the workers throughout the country. “We have union elections at the Suzuki two wheeler plant on 6 April and at the Gurgaon plant on 12 April. Once these are over, we will sit with the new team and plan future course of action. We will not let go of this struggle. We want all those convicted to be acquitted or else we will show them the power of workers unity,” warned Khushi Ram.http://www.catchnews.com/india-news/conviction-of-maruti-workers-aimed-at-crushing-unions-labour-organisations-56350.html
The chief minister was answering to a reporter who asked him if any law against cowslaughter is going to being planned to put in place in Chhattisgarh.
“Pichle 15 salon main kuch nahi hua, leking agar koi karta hai toh usko latka denge,” the Chief Minister said while speaking to some reporters, reported ANI.
#WATCH: Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh says ‘will hang those who kill (cows)’ when asked will Chhattisgarh make any law against cow slaughter. pic.twitter.com/V5fdNs4CEk
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, meanwhile, has accused the BJP of “hypocrisy”. “In U.P., cow is mummy, and in the northeastern states, it’s yummy. This shows BJP’s hypocrisy. While they are talking about a beef ban in U.P., they have said there would be no such thing in the northeast.”
“Assembly elections are going to be held in three states in the northeast. Beef is easily available in (BJP-ruled) Goa. You tell me what is this,” he told a TV news channel. BJP Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy said, “Article 48 says cow slaughter will be prohibited. Let him say he has no faith in some articles of the Constitution, then we will see,” he said.
Meanwhile, Manipur CM N. Biren Singh also slammed Mr. Owaisi. “We worship cows, we preserve them. He cannot make observations about entire northeast,” he said.
After becoming the chief minister of the tribal state in December 2003, he had banned the slaughter of cows, buffaloes and bulls.
Even possession of meat and transportation of animals for slaughter in other states is not permissible under the state laws. The offence invites punishment of seven years in jail and a fine of up to Rs 50,000.
Ahead of the elections later this year, the Gujarat Assembly on Friday passed an amendment to the Gujarat Animal Preservation Act of 1954, enhancing maximum punishment for cow slaughter to life imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh. Under the tweaked law, cow slaughter has become a non-bailable offence in Gujarat.
Since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, the issue of the protection of cows, considered sacred by the Hindus, has been raised on several occasions, and also lead to attacks on Muslims over consumption of beef.
In December, the Union environment ministry wrote to the department of animal husbandry to consider the option of enacting a national law to ban the slaughter and sale of cow meat.
The BJP-ruled states of Maharashtra and Haryana have banned the sale of beef since Modi became the prime minister.
States and Union Territories where cow slaughter is illegal include Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand,
Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. States that permit cow slaughter are Kerala, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.
The Hyderabad High Court on Friday acquitted P Satyam Babu, a man who has spent 8 years in jail, for the rape and murder of a young girl in December 2007.
Ayesha Meera, a 17-year-old pharmacy student in Vijayawada was stabbed to death, her body was found outside the toilet on the second floor of the hostel she was staying in.
In spite of Ayesha’s mother telling the sessions court that they believed Satyam Babu was not the culprit, the case went against him.
Satyam Babu was convicted by the Vijayawada women’s special sessions court in 2010, and sentenced to imprisonment for life. Eight years after he was lodged in jail, he will walk out of Rajahmundry prison on Saturday.
However, for Satyamma,Satyam Babu’s sister, the acquittal gives her no vindication.
Family members of the victim and Satyam Babu had held at the time that he was not guilty, and that he was falsely framed in the case. In spite of the victim’s family alleging that a politician’s family was involved in the murder, the young man was arrested and made to pay the price for the crime.
Speaking to TNM, Satyamma said, “What should I make of this judgement? I am happy that my elder brother got justice, but what’s the use of getting it so late?”
The last decade has been rough for Satyam Babu’s family, as his father died in 2008, and an ailing mother now waits for her son to return home.
“We don’t even have any relatives. It was just me and my mother. Now, my brother has to come back and start his life all over again, all because he was jailed for a crime he didn’t commit,” Satyamma says.
Satyam Babu was arrested in a cell phone robbery case on August 17, 2008, and the police had claimed that he had confessed to her murder during interrogation.
However, several activists had alleged that the police arrested Satyam Babu only so they could let the grandson of former deputy CMKoneru Ranga Rao off the hook.
He suffers from GB Syndrome, which had badly affected his nervous system and his two legs are paralysed.
Satyamma blames the police for her brother’s health condition.
“My brother was fine before they took him into custody. He used to go out and do coolie work. Our family had no history of the disease or of any sort of criminal activities. My parents led decent lives. It was only after he was taken by the police, that he started struggling to even walk.” she alleges.
To make things worse, Satyamma says that her house burned down a year ago, leaving them only with the clothes that they were wearing.
“We will move on with our lives, but who will give us justice for all these years we lost?” she asks.http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/his-youth-lost-behind-bars-who-will-give-satyam-babu-his-life-back-his-sister-asks-59609
The government’s crackdown on meat shops in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has left many traders and butchers without much work and money. The BBC’s Vikas Pandey meets them in Allahabad city.
“I have no money since my shop shut two weeks ago. I don’t know how to feed my children and aging parents. Is it because I am a Muslim, or a meat trader?” Shakeel Ahmad, 52, asks.
He is angry with the state’s new chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, who opposes the slaughter and consumption of cows, considered sacred by India‘s Hindu majority.
Authorities have closed many slaughterhouses since Mr Adityanath’s BJP party won the state elections earlier in the month. Small shops selling goat and chicken have also been forced to shut, despite the slaughter of these animals being legal.
Most butchers are Muslims and many suspect that they are being targeted unfairly. They allege that their businesses are being shut on technicalities. One meat traders association went on strike, alleging harassment by state authorities.
Mr Ahmad says he understands the crackdown on slaughterhouses which sell beef “because it was one of the BJP’s campaign promises”.
Mr Shariq invites me to his house, and asks a question.
“Just look around. My house is already breaking apart. I have to feed 10 people. Is it fair to ban our only source of livelihood?”
His brother P Qureshi and other members of the family also join the conversation.
They are all worried about their future.
“I hope and pray that the chief minister understands our problems and stops people who are misusing his name. We know there is no official ban on slaughtering sheep and goats, but we are still scared,” Mr Qureshi says.
Every house in this community has similar stories.
Abdul Qureshi, who ferries animals in his cycle rickshaw, says the crackdown seems so unreasonable because Hindus too eat meat.
“Most of the customers in this market are Hindus. Even the Indian Army people buy from our shops. I don’t understand how banning a food item proves anybody is more or less religious,” he says.
‘Not just Muslims’
Gulzar Qureshi is the community leader here, and he explains that “people don’t understand that this is not just Muslims’ problem”.
“Most people who rear sheep and goats are Hindus. I know so many Hindus who have come here from their villages to sell their animals and are now stuck,” he says.
Chunni Lal is one of them.
“I am running out of money to feed the five goats I have brought with me. Nobody is willing to buy them,” Mr Lal says.
Gulzar Qureshi says people who believe that the meat trade ban has only affected butchers and slaughterhouse owners are wrong.
“That’s just over simplification. Cattle farmers, middlemen who buy animals and butchers are all affected,” he says.
He adds that even rickshaw pullers who ferry these animals, and tannery workers who need leather don’t have much work these days.
“We are not asking for fancy roads and schools. Just let us earn whatever little amount we make for our children. I think that’s the least a citizen can expect from his government,” he says.
Save for the 1980s, governments have not committed adequate budgetary resources for national health policies
New health policies are launched when there is an intent to change things for the better or worse. Historically, the first opportunity was the pre-Independence 1946 Bhore Committee Report that was not only a health policy document, but a comprehensive national health plan which, at that point, demanded less than two per cent of the GDP for its full realisation. Lack of vision and foresight of our leaders failed that policy. What followed was a series of committees and commissions and five-year plans whose approach changed periodically and was narrow, selective and targeted, and which buried the ethos of the Bhore Committee.
Thirty-six years later, in 1982, the first National Health Policy (NHP) was launched post Alma-Ata with the intent of realising Health For All by 2000. This policy was comprehensive and focused on primary healthcare and was launched during Indira Gandhi’s post-Emergency comeback and backed by a strong political will to make a difference. Under the Minimum Needs Programme, great strides were made and rural healthcare saw huge investments, pushing public health spending from 0.7 per cent of GDP to 1.5 per cent of GDP by the mid-eighties. Health outcomes improved dramatically through expanding rural health infrastructure and strengthening tertiary care. Unfortunately, the momentum was lost at the turn of the nineties under World Bank-led reforms which reduced public health spending back to 0.7 per cent of GDP by mid-nineties. This destroyed the gains from the first NHP and as macro-economic reforms were consolidating, a new health policy was launched in 2002. This policy was in sync with the economic reforms giving a boost to the private sector and further reducing the public health sector to just preventive and promotive health and reproductive healthcare. Public health spending hovered around 0.8 to 0.9 per cent of GDP, user fees were introduced, and this further alienated even the poor from the public health system. With declining public health investment, the private sector boomed — health insurance, pharma industry, medical diagnostics and corporate hospitals became the drivers of healthcare growth in line with the neo-liberal economic policies.
The UPA-1 tried to do what Indira Gandhi had done via the Minimum Needs Programme. They launched various flagship schemes like the National Rural Health Mission. The NRHM was a huge collaborative effort with civil society involvement and brought back the focus on rural healthcare leading to infrastructure improvement but the stumbling block was human resources, especially doctors. The infrastructure expanded, resources saw an upward trend, and spending moved up to 1.2 per cent of GDP. But huge vacancies in public health facilities from 30-40 per cent for doctors and 70 per cent for specialists failed to revive the public health system to its mid-eighties glory. The tragedy was that the urban healthcare system suffered utter neglect and the credibility of the public health system by UPA-2 was completely undermined.
The 12th Five Year Plan and the High-Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage made attempts to revive the public health system and mandated a commitment of 2.5 per cent of GDP to be achieved by 2017. But the government completely failed to take public spending beyond one per cent of GDP. Even the 12th Plan failed to allocate the entire Rs 2,68,551 crore and the final allocation was a mere Rs 1,25,117 crore, less than half.
Worse, the original allocation of Rs 1,93,406 crore for NRHM was reduced to Rs 90,023 crore. The free medicines and diagnostics policies and upgradation of public health facilities to IPHS standards, the cornerstone of the 12th Plan and HLEG, just did not take off.
Meanwhile, the NDA came back to power and produced a surprisingly robust draft health policy capturing well the HLEG recommendations. It proposed that public spending should reach 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2020, of which 70 per cent should be on primary healthcare, and that per capita public spending on healthcare should be Rs 3,800 at 2015 prices. The Centre would contribute 40 per cent of the resources instead of its present 20 per cent share. The draft wanted states to commit eight per cent of their total budget for health and that free drugs and diagnostics would be available in all public health facilities. It wanted all district hospitals to be converted into medical colleges and that financing all the above would be largely through a tax-based mechanism.
This was the Health Ministry’s stand but the NITI Aayog was clearly opposed to this and used its influence in the PMO to tweak the final version tabled in Parliament. The 2015 draft underlined the need to establish healthcare as a right and proposed a National Health Rights Bill. The 2017 policy has struck that down and has developed a language called health assurance, which is nothing but health insurance as a key mechanism of financing healthcare. Besides, the NHP 2017 health policy emphasises the need to involve the private sector in delivering healthcare. The only compromise with the 2015 draft is that primary healthcare may remain largely in the public domain using tax resources but it wants secondary and tertiary care to shift completely to an insurance-based financing, wherein for the defined poor the government would foot the premium. It, however, does retain the 2.5 per cent of GDP public health spending target but has shifted the realisation date to 2025 — another way of saying that we will not get there!
We must wait to see where the new NHP takes us but those running with this new health policy must look at states like Mizoram, Goa, and Puducherry that have robust health outcomes precisely because they have either reached or exceeded the 2.5 per cent GDP target and/or Rs 3800 per capita. In this historical analysis of health policies, it becomes evident that the critical element that led to the failure of each policy was lack of political commitment in budgetary allocations.
The author is Country Coordinator, International Budget Partnership.
The debate over Aadhaar card refuses to die. With private companies like Reliance using it to give out Jio SIM cards, many have this constant fear regarding their personal details being leaked over to a third party, especially now that the Govt is forcing Aadhar card in every sphere, from banking to taxation. And the fears are not unfounded. While the Government tries desperately to allay the concerned citizens, an agency that does Aadhar registration has put the Government in an embarrassing situation by leaking the personal details of Mahendra Singh Dhoni via their Twitter account.
Recently, CSC e-governance, an agency that renders the service of Aadhaar registration posted a tweet via their twitter handle @CSCegov stating “Ace cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his family get their Aadhaar updated at VLE Mariya Farooqui’s CSE at Ranchi, Jharkhand”. Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was tagged in the tweet and he ended up ‘liking’ the tweet. The tweet, however, included a photograph which that exposed Dhoni’s personal details.
Many alert netizens alerted Dhoni and his wife Sakshi regarding this issue. In response, Sakshi Dhoni acknowledged those who out of good will let the couple know and sent a series of tweets to Ravi Shankar Prasad expressing her displeasure.
Many news media outlets covered this issue and posted the story on their social media properties including Facebook and Twitter. Just the way Gurmehar Kaur was recently abused for speaking out her mind with the filthiest abuses, Sakshi Dhoni was also abused in a similar manner for tweeting to the Minister. The filthy abuses came from people sporting a Yogi Adityanath picture to those sporting the Digital India tri-color filter.
Why is that the supporters of this Government are so intolerant that they feel the need to indulge in character assassination every time someone criticises the Govt for the smallest reasons? Sakshi Dhoni was called everything from “R*ndi” to Terrorist. She was abused for being a Bihari and was called a terrorist. Even after such massive electoral victories, why do supporters of this Government continue to be insecure?
Violation of fundamental rights of equality and privacy, introduction and passing of the Aadhaar Act as a money bill and the collection of biometric data by private entities – these are some grounds for the many pending litigations against India’s unique identification, Aadhaar, framework. Contempt may get added to this list soon, senior advocates BloombergQuint spoke with said.
The Government’s Reliance on Aadhaar
From the rural livelihoods mission scheme to housing subsidies, from nutrition programmes to farmer welfare schemes, from education to disability benefits – for more than 25 central government sponsored welfare schemes, beneficiaries are now required to obtain an Aadhaar number.
To be clear, the government’s notifications mention that it will accept an alternate identification till the beneficiary enrols for Aadhaar. But an imputed deadline could make for confused interpretation.
For instance, a notification by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare on Agri-Clinics and Agri-Business Centres (AC&ABC ) scheme reads:
‘An individual…registered under the AC&ABC scheme is hereby required to furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo Aadhaar authentication.’
It further says:
‘Any individual…entitled to receive benefit under the AC&ABC Scheme who does not possess the Aadhaar Number or has not yet enroled for Aadhaar, but are desirous of availing benefits under AC&ABC Scheme, is hereby required to make an application for Aadhaar enrolment by March 31, 2017…’
But also adds this proviso:
‘… till the Aadhaar is assigned to the beneficiaries of AC&ABC Scheme, benefits under the said scheme shall be given to such individual, subject to the production of the following identification documents…’
The notification is unclear on whether a beneficiary, who doesn’t have an Aadhaar number and who fails to register for it by March 31, 2017, can continue to avail benefits under the AC&ABC scheme. The same confusion infects some of the other notifications as well.
So far no one has complained to court of being disadvantaged due to this confusion or being denied benefits due to the lack of an Aadhaar.
Irrespective of whether Aadhaar is made mandatory or not, or a benefit is denied or not, the notification itself is a violation of the Supreme Court order, Senior Advocate and former Additional Solicitor General Sidharth Luthra told BloombergQuint.
Luthra is referring to the 2015 orders of the Supreme Court in which it held that the Aadhaar scheme is ‘purely voluntary’ and that ‘the production of an Aadhaar card will not be a condition for obtaining any benefits otherwise due to a citizen’.
A case of civil contempt can be made out. If an application is filed, the Supreme Court will take very serious note of it. The government won’t be personally held in contempt; it will be the individual officers who are responsible for ensuring that the court’s orders are complied with. Upon the breach, it’s these officers who will be liable for contempt. It’s not a denial of benefit that would constitute contempt; issuance of notifications by various ministries is trigger enough.
Sidharth Luthra, Senior Advocate
AS Chandiok, senior advocate and a former additional solicitor general, concurred that it is not proper for a democratic government to take the law into its own hands and act despite the Supreme Court’s explicit orders. But the government may choose to argue public interest concerns if the contempt issue is raised before the apex court, he pointed out.
It is very likely that the government will say that we are not able to give benefit to genuine people because of unscrupulous elements. What check can I have? This is the only check and balance I can have between citizens. The government may say that it’s in public interest that I am doing this, so that only people who are entitled to these benefits can avail them.
AS Chandiok, Senior Advocate
But the right way to approach it is to first go to the Supreme Court and seek permission for such notifications, Chandiok added.
While the Supreme Court was clear when ruling against the mandatory use of Aadhaar for welfare schemes, when it comes to non-welfare matters the 2015 order reads in more than one way. At first glance it seems to say nothing about non-welfare matters.
‘The production of an Aadhaar card will not be condition for obtaining any benefits otherwise due to a citizen.’
A further reading of the 2015 order reveals that the apex court disallowed the government from using Aadhaar for any purpose other than the six welfare schemes listed in the order.
‘The Unique Identification Number or the Aadhaar card will not be used by the respondents for any purpose other than…’
This suggests Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for any government or non-government service or matter, whether its welfare schemes or tax filing.
But curiously, in a recent order, the Supreme Court itself has directed that an Aadhaar based ‘electronic know-your-customer’ (e-KYC) process be used for issuing new telephone connection.
The Supreme Court’s Silence
The confusion on whether Aadhaar can be made mandatory for non-welfare services aside, lawyers agreed that the 2015 order is clear on welfare schemes. And that even the requirement of enroling for Aadhaar in government notifications pertaining to such schemes amounts to potential contempt of the Supreme Court order.
But why then has the apex court not taken action against the government or officials responsible?
Chandiok explained that the ongoing confrontation between the judiciary and government on the issue of judicial appointments may be one reason.
I don’t think in the current circumstances the Supreme Court will take up the Aadhaar issue by itself. Someone who is eligible for a benefit and is being denied that benefit can approach the apex court – that situation must emerge before the court. I don’t think the court will suo motu take action. The destruction at the hands of the Supreme Court is no less.
AS Chandiok, Senior Advocate
The Supreme Court’s silence amounts to dereliction of duty and the court must ensure rule of law by enforcing compliance of its orders, Chandiok added.
Luthra explained that when this matter first came up in 2015, the court took the view that it should be placed before a five-judge bench. But a five-judge bench is not easy to constitute due to the limited number of judges and the crippling workload.
I am given to understand that Aadhaar cases are likely to be heard in the coming summer vacation, and it would be prudent for the petitioners to raise the contempt issue once the constitution bench is set up.
Sidharth Luthra, Senior Advocate
On Monday though, when litigants currently before the apex court on the Aadhaar matter, sought setting up of a constitutional bench for final hearing on petitions against Aadhaar, the Supreme Court indicated that the matter may need to be heard by a constitutional bench of at least seven judges and that this request is already pending with the Chief Justice of India.