Union Cabinet on Tuesday approved the National Identification Authority of India Bill with a few amendments to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha’s winter session. The bill will give legal backing to Aadhaar, the project which aspires to give every Indian a uniquely identifiable number based on biometrics.
The approval comes a few days after the apex court ruled that the Government cannot deny benefits to people without Aadhaar cards. A public interest litigation had challenged the basis of the Aadhaar project and said that government agencies must not make Aadhaar mandatory to avail government services.
The Unique Identification Authority of India was setup in 2009 with a notification by the Planning Commission and it has been contended by civil liberties groups that such a massive project which involved thousands of crores of budgetary spending and capturing biometric profiles of the whole population had no basis in law.
The draft bill was put up for consultation in 2010 following which it was introduced in the parliament. If the bill is cleared by the parliament, the UIDAI will have a legal basis to operate.
The Aadhaar project, is expected to cost the government Rs 37,187 cr over 11 years. In April, the UIDAI had issued 38 crore Aadhaar numbers and is now targeting 60 cr enrollments by 2014. Under former Infosys Chief Executive Officer Nandan Nilekani, the UIDAI started issuing Aadhaar numbers in September 2010.
Bank accounts linked to the 12 digit unique identification number issued by the UIDAI is now being used to provide government provide subsidies directly to beneficiaries. In November 2012, the government approved direct cash transfers to beneficiaries of government schemes through the Aadhaar platform.