As per the Supreme Court's interim order, no one can insist of Aadhaar for any government schemes like ration card, bank account, cash transfer, issue of LPG subsidies and if it is done, it is contempt of court
Despite clear directions from the Supreme Court
not to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing essential services from the government, oil marketing companies (OMCs) continue to send SMS asking customers to provide their unique identification (UID) number for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) subsidy.
All state-run OMCs, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Indian Oil Corp (IOC) are sending messages (SMS) to their customers asking them to their Aadhaar numbers with bank and submit to the distributor.
This is the SMS that is being sent by the three OMCs to LPG customers across the country...
"Dear XXXgas Consumer, to avail LPG Subsidy in your bank account, kindly submit Your Aadhaar to your Distributor and to your Bank immediately"
What is surprising is even before the apex court decision, Rajiv Shukla, minister of state for parliamentary affairs and planning, told the Lok Sabha on 8 May 2013 that, "Aadhaar card is not mandatory to avail subsidised facilities
being offered by the government like LPG cylinders, admission in private aided schools, opening a savings account etc."
Earlier this month, the West Bengal Assembly passed a resolution on Aadhaar
or the UID number asking the union government to immediately withdraw the decision to link the UID with direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme. Leader of the Opposition and Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) member Surya Kanta Mishra said that the Centre legally cannot make biometric enrolment mandatory and that the entire process was unscientific as there was a scope for margin of error to the extent of 20%.
In November 2013, The Kerala state plenum of CPI (M) adopted a resolution
, which said, "The government has been pressurising people to open bank accounts and link them to Aadhaar. The decision of oil companies to make Aadhaar-linked bank account compulsory for cooking gas subsidy is unacceptable as only 25% of the country's population had so far obtained the Aadhaar. Also instead of allowing people to open zero-balance accounts, many banks are insisting they should deposit Rs500 to Rs1,000 to open accounts."
A consumer is entitled to receive nine cylinders of LPG per family per year under the subsidised quota. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is trying to link Aadhaar-enabled service delivery to various government schemes such as MNREGA wage payments, PDS distribution, payment of social security benefits like as old-age payments and distribution of LPG cylinders. This is being done without taking stock of the ground level infrastructure and practical difficulties.
OMCs insisting upon customers to submit Aadhaar number for availing subsidy for LPG cylinders have not only irked consumers and activists but also some consumer organisations. According to a report from the Hindu, Mangalore-based Gas and Ration Consumers Forum is contemplating filing a public interest litigation (PIL) against attempts to making Aadhaar Card compulsory for availing LPG subsidy.
The Forum has sent notices to all three OMCs with copies to Karnataka High Court, the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Oil and Natural Gas in New Delhi. K Dharmendra, president of the Forum told newspaper that the Supreme Court order clarified that Aadhaar cannot be made compulsory for availing any government benefit including LPG subsidy and said the three OMCs were violating the order. "This amounts to contempt of court," he said.
On 23 September 2013, while hearing a PIL filed by retired Karnataka High Court judge Justice KS Puttaswamy and advocate Parvesh Khanna questioning the legal sanctity of Aadhaar
, the Supreme Court said, "The centre and state governments must not insist on Aadhaar from citizens before providing them essential services."
Many consumer organisation representatives whom the newspaper spoke to said the government was trying to impose Aadhaar cards on people through the backdoor after Supreme Court struck it down and were harassing the LPG consumers.
According to a report from Asian Age, several LPG consumers from Andhra Pradesh have not been getting the subsidy amount though they submitted Aadhaar at banks and gas agencies long ago.
Speaking with Citizen Matters
, Bangalore, Justice Puttaswamy said, "An interim order is as much as a final order. So presently all these government schemes cannot be imposed upon people. And if it is done, it is contempt of court. The interim order does not mention any names of schemes. But under this, no one can insist of Aadhaar for any government schemes like ration card, bank account, cash transfer, issue of LPG subsidies and so on."
What is worst is few customers who have linked their Aadhaar numbers with bank and submitted to LPG distributor are being charged value added tax (VAT) and other duties. Dharmendra of Gas and Ration Consumers Forum told the Hindu that their group would bring to the notice of the High Court that those who link their Aadhaar cards would be made to pay about Rs120 towards taxes.
According to a report from the New Indian Express
, those who have been over-enthusiastic to follow the government directive to link Aadhaar cards with their bank accounts to avail subsidies for LPG cylinders and other benefits are now ruing their decision. "For, even if the LPG subsidy amount was debited from their accounts, going by the prices of last month, an additional amount of Rs26.65 was deducted from it against VAT." Till the Aadhaar issue cropped up, a VAT amount of Rs20 was being deducted from consumers at the door delivery of cylinders.
"In the case of LPG consumers who are yet to opt for Aadhaar linkage, they had paid only around Rs445 per cylinder in September. It will remain the same in October also. But for those with Aadhaar-linked bank accounts, the price was around Rs945 in September. At the time of booking itself, a subsidy component of Rs435 was credited in the bank account of such consumers. In the remaining second subsidy component of Rs109, the deduction of VAT tax was effected," the report said.