Caught in Apex court ire, Government says Aadhaar is voluntary and not proof of citizenship

New Delhi,Manan Kumar(Indilens web team): Table has been turned against Aadhaar once again. A day after the Supreme Court lashed out on the government for making Aadhaar number mandatory for various services, the government admitted that it is voluntary and optional and not a proof of citizenship.

What is the controversy surrounding Aadhaar?
Aadhaar scheme has been in controversy since the day it was conceived in the first meeting of empowered group of ministers (EGOM) in November, 2007 and recognised the need for creating an identity related resident database. Critics that included several state government, including the then Modi government in Gujarat had raised several objections against it, including that it is not validated by an Act passed by Parliament and the data collected by it will not be secure and violates privacy. The UPA government, however, went ahead with its decision and created and notified Unique Identification Authority of India on 28 January 2009 as an attached office under the aegis of Planning Commission.

What is govt’s outlook towards Aadhaar?
The BJP that took strong objection to Aadhaar embraced it when its government came to power in the Centre in 2014. The Modi government, perhaps, understood its far reaching benefits in terms of cutting subsidy by delivering it to targeted BPL people and how it can help it get vote share of poor sections of the society in the future elections.

What is the Apex Court’s stand on it?
Taking a strong stand on Aadhaar in 2013, the Supreme Court had directed that “no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card, in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory.” Revisiting its decision, a bench of Justices J Chelameswar, S A Bobde and C Nagappan clarified on March 16, 2015 that demands made by officials for Aadhaar card is in clear violation of the Supreme Court’s interim order of September 23, 2013.
Supreme Court’s order comes in the wake of various examples of authorities violating its earlier order, such as the Delhi government’s notification on March 9, 2015, insisting that couples require Aadhaar cards to get their marriage registered under the Special Marriage Act and Bombay High Court Registrar receiving an official communication asking him to make Aadhar mandatory for disbursal of salary to staff and even judges.

What has been the government’s response?
The government in Lok Sabha clarified on Tuesday that Aadhaar is issued to the residents of the country. It is not a proof of citizenship. The union home ministry also conceded that the enrolment for Aadhaar is voluntary. However, skirting the question of the applicability of Aadhaar for delivery of various services that has been strongly objected by the Supreme Court, the government said, it is for the implementing authorities to decide on its applicability.