Deadline to link Aadhaar to welfare schemes stays, makes weaker sections even more vulnerable

On March 13, the Supreme Court passed an Interim Order in the ongoing Aadhaar case saying that there was no need to link Aadhaar to phone numbers or bank accounts until it gave its final ruling in the case. This effectively extended the deadline to do so indefinitely, providing relief to millions of Indians who were hitherto being hounded by their banks, mobile service providers and many others to complete the linking process of face termination of services.

However, the court did not extend the deadline for linking Aadhaar to a variety of government welfare schemes under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act. According to this section, the Centre and State governments can insist on Aadhaar “for the purpose of establishing identity of an individual as a condition for receipt of a subsidy, benefit or service for which the expenditure is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India”. This covers people who are eligible for nearly a hundred welfare schemes including but not limited to:

  • Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme
  • Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme
  • Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (Grameen)
  • Atal Pension Yojana
  • Midday Meal Scheme
  • Cash Transfer for Food Subsidy

To undergo authentication to access services under Section 7, an individual has to either produce his Aadhaar card or Aadhaar enrolment application. This means people from some of the most vulnerable sections of society, who need and depend upon welfare schemes most, will be deprived of these benefits till they get their Aadhaar cards and link them to these schemes. The move is therefore exclusionist unless people enrol for Aadhaar. In recent cases people who have been unable to enrol for Aadhaar such as a leprosy patient from Bangalore whose retinae and fingers had wasted away were denied disability benefits!

The Choice Paradox 
Now, until the court rules on whether Aadhaar is mandatory, technically people still have a choice in deciding whether or not to enrol. The refusal to extend the deadline for linking Aadhaar to welfare schemes indirectly takes away this choice and makes Aadhaar enrolment mandatory even before judgment has been pronounced in the case. Many people have chosen not to enrol in Aadhaar given how it accumulates biometric data and is therefore an invasion of privacy. It indexes and categorises people allowing for greater surveillance as well as the potential misuse of personal data.
Reproduced below is the Operative Part of the SC Interim Order of March 13, 2018:
<<Venugopal, learned Attorney General for India submitted that this Court may think of extending the interim order. However, the benefits, subsidies and services WP(C) 494/2012 covered under Section 7 of the The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 should remain undisturbed. We accept the same.
Having heard learned counsel for the parties, we accept the submission made by the learned Attorney General. Subject to that, we direct that the interim order passed on 15.12.2017 shall stand extended till the matter is finally heard and the judgment is pronounced. That apart, the directions issued in the interim order shall apply as stated in paragraphs 11 to 13 in the said order. For the sake of clarity, we reproduce the said paragraphs which read as under:-
“11. In terms of (iii) above, subject to the submission of the details in regard to the filing of an application for an Aadhaar card and the furnishing of the application number to the account opening bank, we likewise extend the last date for the completion of the process of Aadhaar linking of new bank accounts to 31 March 2018.

12. In terms of (iv) above we extend the date for the completion of the E-KYC process in respect of mobile phone subscribers until 31 March 2018.

13. Consistent with the above directions, we also direct that the extension of the last date for Aadhar linkage to 31 March 2018 shall apply, besides the schemes of the Ministries/Departments of the Union government to all state governments WP(C) 494/2012 in similar terms. As a consequence of the extension of the deadline to 31 March 2018, it is ordered accordingly.” It is also directed that the same shall also control and govern the Passports (1st Amendment) Rules, 2018.>>
(Source: <>.)



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