“Government has every intention to go by this judgement. It has set a law which will be followed… There are some prohibited areas where we cannot go. But wherever there are permitted areas, the government will explore its options,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters after a meeting of the union cabinet.
Replying to questions about the apex court striking down a provision which enabled corporate bodies and individuals to seek Aadhaar authentication as unconstitutional, he said, “Don’t assume that it is perpetually prohibited. It may be temporary. The Court has only disallowed Aadhaar in some of these cases which is not backed by law.”
“The judicial review gives us the dos and don’ts about the law. The Court, while upholding the core of the legislation and principal purposes for which it was brought, has made certain observations… Some may be areas where you can’t go in and some may be areas where they say it has to be backed by law,” Jaitley said.
He said the court has ruled that private entities cannot demand Aadhaar data backed by contract but it was yet to be figured out if it was unconstitutional if backed by law.
Jaitley said the full text of the judgement has to be gone through before making any conclusive comments and the government will study it and see where it can act through law.
He said the whole concept of having a unique identification number has been accepted after judicial scrutiny. “It is an extremely welcome decision,” he said.
Jaitley said that Aadhaar linkage to welfare schemes of the government has enabled annual saving of Rs 90,000 crore by eliminating “duplicate and non-existent beneficiaries” and this, in turn, has allowed both the Centre and the states to spend this money for the benefit of the poor.
He said 122 crore people had Aadhaar cards in the country.
Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was also at the press conference, said four out of five judges had upheld the legality of Aadhaar and it has far-reaching consequences.
Prasad also alleged conflict of interest by some Congress leaders, saying they articulated their viewpoint as MPs, member of standing committees and after donning “black coats”, an apparent reference to lawyer members of the party, who opposed the provisions of the Aadhaar law.
He said the government was committed to a robust data protection regime. A draft law will be put in public domain by the end of this month.
Jailtey also attacked the Congress, saying it “has cut a sorry figure” on Aadhaar, noting that the party had introduced the concept but later some of its leaders became its critics.
“Some people are advocating that don’t have UID. Let the impersonation and duplication of identity go on. Do not have EVMs (electronic voting machines) and digital economy, cash should remain as the main instrument of trade,” he said.
“You can see the thread running through this thought process but everyone including critics of Aadhhar should realise that we cannot afford to defy or ignore technology,” he added.