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Lok Sabha clears Aadhaar Bill

Though the bill was returned by Rajya Sabha with the amendments

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Mar 17 2016 11:03AM | Updated Date: Mar 18 2016 11:48AM

Lok Sabha clears Aadhaar Bill

 The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the AadhaarBill, 2016, aimed at at better targeting of subsidies through the Aadhar unique identity number. 

 
The passage of the Bill was preceded by heated debate in the Rajya Sabha involving Opposition members, especially Congress member Jairam Ramesh.
 
On a day of high drama, the government used the provisions of a 'money bill' to override Rajya Sabha within hours of it passing five Congress sponsored amendments to the Aadhaar bill by a 76-64 vote.
 
The margin could have been narrower still had more BJP MPs been present in the House as several regional parties, including Congress allies, did not vote on the bill.
 
Most of the amendments dealt with provisions in the bill thought to be encroaching upon an individual's privacy and his/her ability to opt out of the scheme.
After the amended Aadhaar bill was returned to Lok Sabha under the provisions of Article 109, the government used its overwhelming majority to reject the changes and pass the original bill as it was cleared by the lower House last Friday.
 
But the day saw an engrossing debate between finance minister Arun Jaitley and Congress' Jairam Ramesh - mover of the five amendments - over making Aadhaar mandatory to access benefits, privacy and national security clauses, concerns over mass surveillance and terming the legislation a money bill.
 
The Bill's passage means that once it receives presidential assent, the government will be able to extend the use of Aadhaar to a range of services beyond the five currently allowed by the SC. Barring an adverse order from the SC constitution bench that is to hear issues related to whether right to privacy is a fundamental right, the Centre can proceed with its Aadhaar-linked services.
 
Though Ramesh strongly disputed the government's contentions that susbidies would be better targeted through the JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile) trinity, NDA has made this platform central to its attempt to deliver benefits to the poor and in the process, improve its prospects for re-election in 2019.
 
RS returned the contentious Bill to the Lower House but not before adopting as many as five amendments. One of the amendments passed called for replacing "national security" with "public emergency or in the interest of public safety" as many MPs felt the definition of national security was nebulous.
 
The amendments called for dropping of a clause which seemed to dilute the government's statement earlier that the Bill would confine itself only to governmental expenditure.
 
The bill was brought by the government to give statutory backing to the UID scheme to ensure subsidies went only to the targeted sections.
 
The opposition expressed reservations over the government's decision to tag the legislation a money bill only to bypass RS while Jaitley defended the move on the ground that there was a specific purpose to direct spending of government funds in certain manner.