Sunday, September 18, 2016

Aadhaar not compulsory: Union human resources ministry "clarifies" after civil rights NGO writes to apex court

By Our Representative
Responding to letters of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) to the Chief Justice of India, Union Minister of Human Resource Development and Secretary, University Grants Commission (UGC), and contempt applications in the Supreme Court, the Universities Grants Commission (UGC) has “clarified” students who have applied or wishing to apply for scholarship/fellowship “shall not be denied benefit thereof due to non-availability of Aadhaar No./Card.”
CFCL had sent letters to the three authorities on August 26, 2016, July 12, 2016 and 2nd July, 2016, drawing attention of the apex court view taken in 2014 that “no person shall be deprived of any service for want of Aadhaar number in case he/she is otherwise eligible/entitled.” 
It directed “all the authorities are directed to modify their forms/circulars/likes so as to not compulsorily require the Aadhaar number in order to meet the requirement of the interim order passed by this Court forthwith.”
The apex court confirmed its order October 15, 2015 saying its part order would remain in force till the time court itself does not waive it. Says CFCL’s Gopal Krishna in a statement, “The Court’s order makes it clear that UID/ aadhaar remains voluntary.”
The latest Government of India decision to take back its earlier decision to make Aadhaar card for UGC scholarships and fellowships is likely to adversely affect other government ministries which had sought to make Aadhaar/UID compulsory.
Already, Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Chief Executive Officer, Unique Identify Authority of India (UIDAI), has said that “at least from the UIDAI side, we have not said it shall be mandatory.”
According to Krishna, the Government of India has “illegitimately and illegally” been trying to make UID/Aadhaar Number mandatory by making it structurally irreversible outwitting Court’s directions although the very first promise which legally questionable UIDAI made in its UID/Aadhaar Enrolment Form is/was that it is “free and voluntary”.
“Government’s notification of September 12, 2016 also underlines it”, he says, though regretting, “The fact is that it is neither free nor voluntary. It is not free because the foreign companies involved are admittedly charging Rs 2.75 per enrolment. Central, State Governments and other agencies have been illegally seeding UID/Aadhaar in their IT systems to make it structurally mandatory.”
Pointing out that “it is only Court’s order that has kept UID/Aadhaar voluntary”, Krishna says, “Attempts to make UID/Aadhaar compulsory have emerged as an act of bullying by the government agencies and turning citizens into subjects by making right to have inalienable, natural, fundamental and constitutional rights conditional on biometric identification.”
“The revision of the UGC’s order by central government ahead of the upcoming hearing in the Supreme Court vindicates the position of CFCL and eminent citizens who have issued Statement of Concern and Public Statement seeking halting of UID/Aadhaar project”, Gopal claims.
He adds, “This revision reveals that the Central government, state governments and other agencies who have been attempting to make it mandatory have been manifestly been wrong.”
Krishna believes, In view of the “urgency” admitted and recorded by Court’s Bench of five judges headed by Chief Justice of India to the biometric UID/Aadhaar Number case, “it appears inappropriate that even as the apex Court is to determine the legal status of UID/Aadhaar, Indian residents are being coerced to accept 12 Digit Biometric UID/Aadhaar Number as a fait accompli.”

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