Cabinet approves bill giving statutory status to UIDAI

The union cabinet today approved official amendments to the National Identification Authority of India Bill that gives statutory status to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is responsible for issuing the Aadhar number.

The bill, which was cleared at a meeting of the union cabinet headed by prime minister Manmohan Singh in the morning, is expected to be tabled in parliament during the winter session.

The move, which coincided the rejection of a government plea seeking the Supreme Court's backing for regularising compulsory use of Aadhar cards for availing social benefits.

The apex court, however, agreed to give an urgent hearing to the government on the issue but refused to grant any relief to it and oil PSUs seeking modification of its earlier order.

Once the bill is passed by both houses of Parliament, UIDAI will have statutory status, allowing its use for availing social benefits like subsidy disbursals.

The UIDAI, which issues 12-digit Aadhaar numbers to all Indian residents, currently operates through an executive order.

The new law seeks to create a National Identification Authority of India, which will oversee the implementation of the Aadhaar project. It also seeks to define the penalties in case of misuse of data collected under the project.

Meanwhile, the government today failed to get any relief on Aadhaar card being made compulsory for availing social benefits, particularly gas cylinder subsidies, from the Supreme Court, which turned down its plea to modify its interim order that no person be deprived of any schemes for want of Aadhaar.

A batch of top government lawyers, including Attorney General G E Vahanvati and Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran failed to convince the court the need to modify its earlier order which made Aadhar arbitrary.

Oil companies on behalf of the government, have been arguing that it would severely affect grant of gas subsidies and the entire distribution system in 97 districts where it has been implemented would come to a standstill.