Supreme Court says Government can’t make Aadhaar Card mandatory for welfare schemes
New Delhi, March 27: The Supreme Court of India on Monday said the government authorities cannot make Aadhaar Card mandatory for extending benefits of central welfare schemes, 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.
Recently, the central government made it mandatory for all citizens to produce the 12-digit Aadhaar number for benefits under dozens of central schemes – free mid-day meals for schoolchildren, scholarships, subsidized cooking gas and foodgrains and other schemes for backward castes and the disabled.
Aadhaar cards will also be needed for filing tax returns. The Centre has indicated that Permanent account number (PAN) cards could be invalidated by year-end if not linked with Aadhaar Card.
The Central government had said it will enable people to get their biometric identity documents by June 30.
A clutch of petitions challenging the orders, and Aadhaar, are pending in the Supreme Court. The SC said a 7-judge bench has to be set up to hear the pleas challenging Aadhaar but right now it is not possible.
On last week, responding to opposition criticism in parliament, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that Aadhaar card may soon become the only card required to identify a person, replacing Voter Identity Cards and PAN Cards.
Jaitley said as many as 98 percents or 108 crore people have Aadhaar numbers in the country.
The Central 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 center has asked states government 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.