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Cabinet okays bill on Aadhaar

New Delhi, Oct 8, 2013, DHNS
File photo.

The Union Cabinet on Tuesday cleared the National Identification Authority of India Bill, that gives statutory status or legal and legislative backing to the UIDAI, which issues 12-digit unique Aadhaar numbers to residents of India.

The bill, which may be taken up for passage in the winter session of Parliament, was long overdue. At present, the UIDAI programme runs on an executive order.

The Cabinet’s hurried nod for the bill may have been prompted by the Supreme Court’s recent order that possessing Aadhaar number cannot be made mandatory for availing government schemes because it was not backed by any legislation.

Though the bill was rejected by the standing committee of finance headed by Yashwant Sinha of the BJP in December 2011, the modified bill includes  several suggestions made by the panel, an UIDAI official said.

The bill also seeks to define penalties in case of misuse of data that was collected under the project.

According to the official, the Aadhaar number can be issued to any resident, including foreign national.

“It does not confer any citizenship or domicile rights as per Section 6 of the bill,” the official explained.

According to the Bill, the project will cost Rs 12,400 crore. As the government was keen to rollout welfare schemes making Aadhaar as a platform, it wants to give it strong legislative backing.

Meanwhile, the Centre and oil PSUs failed to get any relief from the Supreme Court’s ruling that Aadhaar number is not compulsory for availing social benefits.

A bench of Justices B S Chauhan and S A Bobde said that they would not like to go into it (the order) at the moment and posted the matter for full-fledged hearing after Dussehra vacations.

The court turned down the plea to grant any relief by modifying its September 23 order, saying that the matter required detailed hearing.

Three oil PSUs--IOCL, BPCL and HPCL--have moved the Supreme Court seeking modification of its order that Aadhaar card is not mandatory and no person should suffer for want of it in getting benefits of government schemes.

The bench agreed to give an urgent hearing on a bunch of petitions challenging the legal status of Aadhaar card.


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