New Aadhaar Bill passed. If Aadhaar really compulsory for subsidy benefit schemes ?

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THE AADHAAR (TARGETED DELIVERY OF FINANCIAL AND OTHER SUBSIDIES, BENEFITS AND SERVICES) BILL, 2016

A lot of controversy has already been generated with respect to the utility or compulsion for having AADHAR Card. Not earlier than August, 2016, the Supreme Court had ruled that Aadhaar was not mandatory for a citizen and neither it was a condition for obtaining any benefits otherwise due to a citizen. Interestingly, even the ruling BJP in past has categorically opposed AADHAR and even declared scrapping it if it comes to power.

However, latest tussle between BJP and opposition led by Congress has clearly demonstrated how values change symmetrically with the change of power. BJP in its desperation to achieve its objective with Aadhaar, brought the Bill as Money Bill.

Why it was presented as Money Bill?

As per constitutional provisions in India a Bill is required to be passed by both the Houses (i.e. Lok Sabha and rajya Sabha).  However, Bills which exclusively contain provisions for imposition and abolition of taxes, for appropriation of moneys out of the Consolidated Fund, etc., are certified as Money Bills. Such Money Bills can be introduced only in Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha cannot make  amendments in a Money Bill passed by Lok Sabha and transmitted to it. It can, however, recommend amendments in a Money Bill, but must return all Money Bills to Lok Sabha within fourteen days from the date of their receipt. It is open to Lok Sabha to accept or reject any or all of the recommendations of Rajya Sabha with regard to a Money Bill. If Lok Sabha does not accept any of the recommendations of Rajya Sabha, Money Bill is deemed to have been passed by both Houses in the form in which it was passed by Lok Sabha without any of the amendments recommended by Rajya Sabha. If a Money Bill passed by Lok Sabha and transmitted to Rajya Sabha for its recommendations is not returned to Lok Sabha within the said period of fourteen days, it is deemed to have been passed by both Houses at the expiration of the said period in the form in which it was passed by Lok Sabha.

In a dramatic sequence of events, the new Aadhaar Bill (THE AADHAAR (TARGETED DELIVERY OF FINANCIAL AND OTHER SUBSIDIES, BENEFITS AND SERVICES) BILL, 2016) was presented in Rajya Sabha today (16/03/2016) where Congress moved several amendments to the Bill which were passed with majority voting (remember BJP is in minority in Rajya Sabha). The Bill was returned to the Lok Sabha with amendments.

However, as described above, since it was brought as Money Bill, Lok Sabha today only rejected all the amendments and passed the Bill which will deem it to be passed by Rajya Sabha as well.

Under new Bill, Aadhaar not compulsory for Subsidy benefits etc. ?

Not to mention that as per new Bill proof of Aadhaar number has been made necessary for receipt of certain subsidies, benefits and services, etc. However it does provide that in the case of an individual to whom no Aadhaar number has been assigned, such individual for receiving such benefits, shall makes an application for enrolment to Aadhaar and so long as Aadhaar number is not assigned to an individual , the individual shall be offered alternate and viable means of identification for delivery of the subsidy, benefit or service etc.

Thus the application for enrollment is a pre-requisite for getting subsidy by alternative means of identification. 

Issues with the Aadhaar Bill

The major concerns expressed with respect to new Aadhaar Bill revolve around sharing and security of information gathered by the UID authority i.e., Unique Identification Authority of India (UIAI).

The following clauses of Bill contains provisions related to sharing and security of information.

Authentication and sharing of information

During authentication of the Aadhaar number of an individual holding Aadhaar number by means of in biometric or demographic information, such individual is required to give consent to allow collecting his identity information which would be used for submission to the Central Identities Data Repository for authentication.

The individual Aadhaar holder shall be informed of the following:

(a) the nature of information that may be shared upon authentication;

(b) the uses to which the information received during authentication may be put by the requesting entity; and

(c) alternatives to submission of identity information to the requesting entity

Protection of Aadhaar Information

A lot of debate is with respect to security and confidentiality of Aadhaar data. This concern gains importance in view of hacking incidents that has taken place worldwide where millions of user information have been hacked, mis-appropriated and published in public domains.

The new Bill proposes to incorporate suitable provisions in Chapter VI to ensure confidentiality of identity information and authentication records of individuals. Further, core biometric information, collected or created shall not be shared with anyone or used for any other purpose without the prior consent. Even a Court requiring such information shall not pass such order without giving an opportunity of hearing.

Conclusions:

Bill seems to contain adequate framework for safeguards and apprehension can be put to rest till the corresponding Regulations are brought. and analysed with respect to their adequacy.

Aadhaar Bill 2016

As passed by Lok Sabha

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