PUBLISHED: 22:09 GMT, 29 January 2014 | UPDATED: 22:09 GMT, 29 January 2014
With just three months to go before the general elections, the UPA government is desperate to get its flagship Aadhaar scheme designed to bring benefits to the eligible back on track.
The Supreme Court had ruled that an Aadhaar card is not mandatory for all citizens to have.
The Centre on Wednesday pleaded with the court that it was essential for “good governance, transparent implementation of government programmes” and to ensure that benefits reach only those who qualify to get them.
In its plea the government also said that Rs 3,494 crore has already been spent to enroll 53 crore Indians by the Unique Identification Authority of India, the nodal agency which issues the cards, and it had to ensure that the money isn’t wasted.
The UIDAI said it had enrolled 53 crore citizens till September 30, 2013, spending Rs 3,494 crore
The bench is hearing PILs filed by a retired Karnataka High Court judge, K. Puttaswamy, and social activist Aruna Roy against making the cards mandatory for accessing government schemes and subsidies.
They also argued that the manner in which information is extracted violates and transgresses individual rights of citizens including privacy.
In its strongly-worded plea in the apex court urging withdrawal of its September 23, 2013 ruling that the card cannot be made mandatory to enjoy government schemes and subsidies, UIDAI said it felt that court was being misled by PIL petitioners who seemed to have played into the hands of “unscrupulous elements” who stand to be identified and eliminated from the list of beneficiaries and who wanted the scheme to go.
Citing an instance, the UIDAI claimed that PSU oil companies detected around 45,000 duplicate connections on the basis of the Aadhaar numbers and once these connections are blocked, it would save the exchequer around Rs 23 crores annually.
It said the court’s interim order had “very serious implication” on the implementation of various welfare schemes. Though it insisted that the card should be made a must for subsidies, UIDAI termed the allegations of rampant denial of services as completely baseless.
“Unfounded allegations of petitioners cannot be reason to put a question mark against the implementation of a well thought out scheme of the Government of India which is clearly in public interest. If anything, by doing so, the petitioners are playing in the hands of unscrupulous elements that stand to be identified and eliminated from list of beneficiaries of government programmes to which they have no rightful claim,” UIDAI told the court.
Appearing for UIDAI, Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran and his assisting lawyer Zoheb Hossain urged the court to modify its September order or issue a clarification that “any government department or public utility or PSU for purpose of ensuring good governance and transparent implementation of government programmes including grant of subsidies or scheme involving expenditure from public exchequer or provision of social security benefits may insist upon Aadhaar to ensure the benefits reach only the rightful, eligible persons, prevent wasteful and fraudulent leakages, bogus claims and corrupt practices”.
Denying that citizens’ right to privacy was being violated, the UIDAI said it does not in any way part with any confidential information of any applicant.
“The details given by the applicant are not accessible even to the persons who seek verification of the identity of the Aadhaar card holder”, it said.
The PILs had said the manner in which biometric details are collected by private contractors and NGOs hired by UIDAI without any safeguard makes it prone to misuse. They claimed empirical research to show that the biometric identification denoted for UID, namely the iris scan and finger print identification, is faulty and is capable of being abused.