Can be used in schemes like opening of bank accounts, observes the apex court. The government cannot make Aadhaar mandatory for extending benefits of its welfare schemes, the Supreme Court said on Monday. The government, however, cannot be stopped from using Aadhaar in other schemes like opening of bank accounts, the court added.
A seven-judge Bench has to be set up to hear the pleas challenging Aadhaar, but right now it is not possible, the court noted.
Aadhaar cannot be mandatory for central welfare schemes, the Supreme Court said today, but added that it cannot stop the government from linking the 12-digit identification number to the opening of bank accounts or filing of tax returns.
The government recently made it mandatory for citizens to produce the 12-digit Aadhaar number for benefits under nearly three dozen central schemes including free mid-day meals for schoolchildren. Aadhaar was also made compulsory for scholarships and other schemes for backward castes and the disabled. Aadhaar cards are mandatory for subsidized cooking gas and foodgrains.
The government has said it will enable people to get their biometric identity documents by June 30.
Aadhaar cards will also be needed for filing tax returns – a move that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley says will check tax evasion.
The Supreme Court today said it cannot stop the government from doing so but reiterated its earlier order that Aadhaar cannot be mandatory for people to benefits under official welfare schemes.
Last week, responding to opposition criticism in parliament, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that Aadhaar may soon become the only card required to identify a person, replacing Voter IDs and PAN or Permanent Account Number. He said as many as 98 per cent or 108 crore people have Aadhaar numbers.
The government has said that until all beneficiaries are assigned Aadhaar cards, subsidized foodgrain will be provided on ration cards and Aadhaar enrolment slips or a copy of an applicant’s request for Aadhaar enrolment.
The centre has asked states to link Aadhaar numbers with the ration card or with bank accounts for cash transfer of food subsidy.
The use of Aadhaar as the identity document for benefits or subsidies simplifies delivery and helps make the system more transparent and efficient, the government says.