New DELHI(web team): Stepping into the shoes of UPA govt, the Centre on Friday told Supreme Court that it would continue with Unique Identification (UID) or Aadhaar card scheme for its multiple benefit to public.
Narendra Modi government made it clear that UID scheme is "voluntary" and not mandatory. The apex court, which had restrained the authorities from making the Aadhaar card mandatory for extending benefits to public in September 2013, had asked the Narendra Modi government to apprise whether it would like to continue with the scheme.
"There is a strong case for continuation of the UID scheme in view of the widespread use and the benefits being provided to the Aadhaar enrollees," the government said filing a joint affidavit including finance ministry, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and other authorities in response to the court's query on a PIL which challenged the validity of the Aadhaar card scheme.
"The enrollment to the UID scheme is purely on a voluntary basis and it is not mandatory upon any person to enroll with UID scheme and consequently part with their biometric information," the government added.
Opposing the PIL, which sought court to strike down the policy, government provided the data over the scheme saying, "As on March 31, 2015 a cumulative expenditure of Rs5,980.62 crore and over 1,000 crore on IT infrastructure has been incurred under the scheme."
"Over 80.46 crore Aadhaar numbers have been generated, 16.25 crore bank accounts have been linked to it enabling the public to get direct benefit transfer (DBT), over 37 crore LPG subsidy transfer transactions amounting to total of over Rs11,500 crore and a total of 61.04 lakh payment transactions have been done through DBT across the country for 34 schemes amounting to Rs681.14 crore," as stated in the affidavit while explaining the multiple benefits of the scheme.
It cited the example of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), the government claimed that the UID scheme has helped it in streamlining the MGNREGA database.
Countering the allegations in the PIL, the authorities said the UID has both constitutional and legal basis, the government said introduction of the scheme falls within the realm of positive duties that must discharge by the state.
Even though Right to Privacy Bill is under consideration, it laid emphasis on right to privacy and data protection. Explaing that it said, "Robust measures are being adopted to safeguard the information related to Aadhaar and its usage. UID scheme ensures data security protection."
The court was hearing a PIL filed by Bangalore based resident Mathew Thomas alleging that collection of data was being carried out by certain foreign companies with alleged dubious credentials which would impinge one's privacy.
Questioning the locus of the petitioner, the government wanted the court to reject the plea and allow it to go ahead with the scheme.