NEW DELHI: The Centre on Wednesday strongly defended the Aadhaar scheme and sought to dispel fears of data leak, with Attorney General K K Venugopal telling the Supreme Court that all the data with the government remained safe and secure behind a complex that had 13-feet-high and five-feet-thick walls.
Beginning the arguments before a five-judge constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Venugopal said the core effort of the Aadhaar Act was to protect the money spent on bridging the gap between the rich and the poor and to cut down on rampant corruption.
The submissions came on batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the 12- digit biometric based identification number.
Basing his arguments on better welfare of people, the top law officer said because of privacy concerns, the people can’t be denied efficient and transparent delivery of services.
He said Aadhaar was “not a fly-by-night effort to get some brownie points”, but a serious effort to end corruption in the delivery of benefits and services.
He sought permission for putting up two LCD screens inside the courtroom so that UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey can give a power point presentation on Thu rsday to allay the apprehensions about the Aadhaar scheme.
However, the apex court asked the AG to submit the presentation in ‘word format’ and said it will decide on whether PPT was required. Countering the arguments of petitioners who claimed that data collected during 2009-2016, before the Aadhaar Act came into existence, was unconstitutional, Venugopal said the programme was completely voluntary at that time.
On the question of ‘exclusion’ raised by petitioners, the Attorney General reiterated the government’s stand that no citizen has been denied benefits due to the lack of an Aadhaar card. But Justice D Y Chandrachud observed that financial exclusion was a reality that could not be denied.
To prove Aadhaar was necessary to stop corruption in public distribution system and other welfare schemes, the AG quoted former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, “Out of every rupee allotted by the government, only 15 paise reach the poor.” “The right to dignity of downtrodden was more important than right to privacy being exposed by few NGO and individuals.”
There was a “legitimate and, in this case, a compelling need” to introduce Aadhaar “for identification of genuine beneficiaries of subsidies, services and benefits under the Aadhaar Act, the government said.