The government will push for passage of a long-pending bill to provide statutory status to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in the winter session of Parliament.
"We will bring the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010 in Parliament during the forthcoming winter session for discussion and passage," Planning Minister Rajeev Shukla told PTI.
The UIDAI, which issues 12-digit Aadhaar numbers to residents, currently operates through an executive order.
The working of the UIDAI has come under scrutiny of the Supreme Court, which in an interim order yesterday, observed that Aadhaar can be issued only to Indian nationals and the identification number cannot be made mandatory for availing of benefits of the government's subsidy schemes.
The bill to provide the authority legal backing was approved by the Union Cabinet in September 2010 and introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December that year. It was sent for scrutiny to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance headed by former finance minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.
"Now the bill has been sent back to the Planning Commission by the Standing Committee with some amendments. We will soon take it to the Cabinet and try to push the draft for passage in the winter session," Shukla said.
The minister said the UIDAI has not made enrolment for Aadhaar number mandatory for residents and it was for the central departments, ministries and state governments to decide how to verify the identity of beneficiaries.
"Aadhaar establishes the identity of a person and not the nationality. It also serves as proof of residence. Moreover, it is a voluntary facility and not mandatory," he said.
According to an affidavit submitted by the Planning Commission in the Supreme Court, "Aadhaar is issued to residents on voluntary basis. The consent of the individual is sine qua non before issuing Aadhaar numbers...it cannot be said that collection of biometrics information of the subjects who volunteer to same amounts to breach of fundamental right."
The UIDAI, constituted in January 2009, functions as an executive body under the Planning Commission.
The authority has been mandated to enrol and collect biometric data of 60 crore residents across 18 states, while data of the remaining 61 crore population would be collected under the National Population Register (NPR) programme.
The 12-digit unique identification number for the entire 121 crore population will be generated by the UIDAI.
NPR and UIDAI will share the data collected so that multipurpose national identity cards with Aadhaar numbers printed on them can be issued to all residents in the country.