This Article is From Sep 23, 2013

Aadhaar card must be voluntary, says Supreme Court

New Delhi: In the middle of a working day, SM Rehman, a daily wage earner, is at the ration card office in Delhi's Ambedkar Nagar, trying to get a new ration card made for his family of six. His biggest stumbling block isn't the form but an Aadhaar card. Under the Delhi government's food security scheme, an Aadhaar card is required to get a new smart card for ration.

"I took me 15 days to get my Aadhaar card made, but I'm the only one who has an Aadhaar card in my family," he tells us. The new ration card, will entitle his family to subsidised food under the government's ambitious food security scheme. But the long processes have him worried. "I have already spent 30 days of work for 3 kilos of ration."

Mr Rehman is not alone. Some residents of Sarita Vihar we met at the ration office told us the mantra was simple: no Aadhaar, no ration card. Laxmi said, "They won't accept forms here without an Aadhaar number. Even if you have to add the names of children, they need to have Aadhaar cards too."

The Delhi government has maintained that the registration for Aadhar or the unique identification number (UID) is voluntary. But by linking the Aadhaar to the ration card has virtually made enrolling for the UID mandatory.

Now the government's ambitious unique identity project comes with a word of caution from the Supreme Court. While hearing a petition on its distribution among illegal immigrants, the top court said getting an Aadhaar card must be voluntary and not mandatory.

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The Supreme Court which is examining the validity of the Aadhar scheme has passed an interim order today saying no citizen should suffer for want of Aadhaar cards and Aadhaar cards should not be issued to illegal migrants.

After the Supreme Court order the Delhi government told NDTV it will study the top court's decision before revisiting its plan although it feels the Aadhaar has already covered 99 per cent of the population and is being used more as a tool of convenience.

"The judgement has just come today. We will study it and then decide. We are not only depending on Aadhaar. We have other data as well," said Minister of Food and Civil Supplies Haroon Yusuf.

But with Aadhaar finding a place of prominence in all ration forms, many fear the confusion on the ground on its status will only add to the problems of the most vulnerable sections of the poor.