Author: Nikhil Kanekal
The union government’s swift approval of the National Identification Authority of India Bill through the cabinet of ministers on 8 October, even as its law officers stood before the Supreme Court in a related case, is a strategic move that could make the public interest petition infructuous.
If the bill clears Parliament during the winter session, then the United Progressive Alliance’s Unique Identity scheme will finally attain legitimacy and statutory backing. The bill could fashion conditions under which it is mandatory to get an Aadhar card to avail certain public services. This was the stance taken by the government before the court, which is scheduled to hear the matter on 22 October. The supply of subsidised gas is likely to temporarily cease, since the court decided not to modify its order of 23 September.
The current case is causing controversy because certain government departments have made it mandatory to possess an Aadhar card to avail of basic public services. The petition was brought by a retired judge of the Karnataka high court who was asked to obtain an Aadhar card to be paid his dues.
One of counsels for the petitioner admitted that if Aadhar gets Parliamentary approval, the case would fall apart. But the counsel added that they would challenge the newly formed law in that scenario. “Yes, the case will become infructuous. We will have to challenge the law.”
Meanwhile, a fresh news report reveals that thousands of school students not being able to get access to benefits of scholarships announced by the government in Jharkhand:
Data from the district welfare office show that 23, 817 children availed themselves of post-matric scholarships for the SC/ST and OBCs — one of the seven schemes linked to Aadhaar — in 2011-12. But in 2012-13, after Aadhaar was made mandatory for students, this dropped by 35 per cent to 15,638. The sharpest reduction is in the number of beneficiaries from tribal families. In 2011-12, 16,058 ST students got scholarships, while the next year this fell to 8,985.