‘Aadhaar bill has measures to guard privacy, aims at subsidy reach’

New Delhi, March 16 (IANS) The Aadhaar bill has strict provisions to safeguard privacy of the citizens, and it is aimed at ensuring that subsidies reach the right beneficiaries, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Wednesday.

Moving the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, in the Rajya Sabha, he also responded to the objections raised by the opposition members at it being designated a money bill, saying that the Lok Sabha speaker’s decision to do so cannot be questioned.

“The core of this bill is government money is being spent by central and state governments. When you spend that money in order to ensure that money reaches the right man, you insist on the identity of the person.

“If subsidies are given as unquantified amounts to unidentified sections, then non-merit people will get subsidies and merit people will not get it… So, for people to get the benefit of subsidies, the production of UID or other alternative document has to be the pre-condition,” he said.

Jaitley said that the present bill borrows certain ideas from the UPA bill that every citizen needs to have a unique identification number but beyond that the new bill was “completely different in pith and substance”.

“The previous UPA government had also brought a legislation on Aadhaar. In that bill, the purpose of the personal data and biometrics information collected through the exercise was not defined,” he said.

“Compared to the UPA bill, the proposed law lays down a very strict procedure, the privacy law is much more tightened,” he said.

Jaitley emphasised that under the bill, personal information of a person would be shared only on the basis of his consent, and the “core biometric data” will not be shared even if there is consent.

“The only ground on which data can be shared is national security. One authority will be created in Delhi,” he said, adding that the decision of that authority will be reviewed by an authority headed by the cabinet secretary.

“We have further tightened privacy laws much more than what UPA had done. Only ground now is national security which every member agrees individual right has to give way to national security,” he said.

On it being made a money bill, he said: “Article 110 decides what a money bill is. If money flows into consolidated fund of India and money flows out of consolidated fund of India, and a law yields with that matter it becomes a money bill.”

“Article 110(3) says clearly it is satisfaction of speaker of Lok Sabha that is final… Once the speaker satisfies herself and says I certify it is a money bill, it will be a money bill and no authority in the country can question that provision,” he said.

He also rejected Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury’s argument that government was being haste in bringing the law as a five-member bench of Supreme Court is looking into the Aadhaar case.

“Sub-judice an argument which is available when issues of individual culpability are pending in the court, you don’t prejudice a trial or hearing in a court by discussing it in a parliamentary forum,” he said, adding that if the government waited for matters in court, petitions would be filed on other legislations as well.

“…If that would happen there will be a third chamber in Supreme Court to legislate and both houses will have lost their power.”

“Because an unlegislated executive action of a government has been challenged in the court, parliament does not lose its right to legislate,” he added.

The Aadhaar bill intends to provide for targeted delivery of subsidies and services to individuals residing in India by assigning them unique identity numbers, called Aadhaar numbers.

The bill was brought in the Lok Sabha as a money bill, which restricts the upper house’s role as its members cannot amend the bill, but only recommend amendments, which will go back to the Lok Sabha and the lower house can choose to pass or reject them.

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