Aadhaar can’t be made compulsory for government welfare programs

The Supreme Court of India said that the government cannot make it compulsory to have an Aadhaar card to receive benefits from government welfare schemes, according to a report by Firstpost.

The government, however, cannot be stopped from using Aadhaar in other programs like opening of bank accounts, said the Supreme Court.

The decision comes a week after Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the governing agency in charge of Aadhaar, made it mandatory for all devices using Aadhaar authentication to comply with its new encryption standards.

In January, the Supreme Court had refused to expedite the hearing of Aadhaar cases challenging the constitutional validity of the program.

The high court said that it must establish a seven-judge bench to hear the pleas challenging Aadhaar.

A bench led by Chief Justice JS Khehar said data collection by private agencies would not be wise after senior advocate Shyam Divan requested an urgent hearing of the plea citing privacy concern.

“We are not inclined to give immediate hearing as there are limited resources but biometric data collection by private agencies is not a great idea,” the bench also comprising Justices NV Ramana and DY Chandrachud, said.

On October 15, 2015, the Supreme Court loosened its earlier restrictions and permitted voluntary use of Aadhaar cards in welfare programs that also included MGNREGA, all pension plans and provident fund, and flagship programs like ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna’ of the NDA government.

The social welfare programs, designed to help the “poorest of the poor”, were in addition to LPG and PDS programs in which the high court had allowed the voluntary use of the biometric cards.

Earlier this month, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) said they have not found any cases of misuse of Aadhaar biometrics resulting in identity theft and financial loss during the more than 40 billion Aadhaar authenticated transactions that were processed over the past five years.

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