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Aadhaar not mandatory: Supreme Court sticks to order, cabinet clears Bill to legalise scheme

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today rejected the Centre's plea to modify an interim ruling that the Aadhaar or the Unique Identity Card is not mandatory for essential services.

The court also took a dig at the government over its ordinance to override a Supreme Court order disqualifying convicted MPs, withdrawn last week in a blaze of controversy.  

When the government lawyer admitted that a law on Aadhaar was before the cabinet, the judges sarcastically said, "You have the ordinance route also. If you have a law this case becomes irrelevant."

This comes on a day the Cabinet approved the National Identification Authority of India Bill that will give legal backing to the Aadhaar card. The Bill may be tabled during the winter session of Parliament, say sources. The authority that issues the 12-digit Aadhaar numbers to citizens currently operates through an executive order.

Last month, the top court ruled that the Centre or states must not insist on Aadhaar cards for providing essential services. "No citizen should suffer for the want of Aadhaar cards", the court had said on a petition questioning the validity of the Unique Identity Card scheme, which has cost the centre Rs 50,000 crore.

The court's order was viewed as a setback for the Manmohan Singh government's plans to reach out to the masses with ambitious schemes like food security and direct cash transfer ahead of national polls due in May.

The Centre had asked the court to make Aadhaar cards mandatory for social welfare schemes heavily subsidized by the government.  The government argued today that if the order was not reviewed, nobody would get subsidised cooking gas as it had been linked to Aadhaar cards in 97 districts.

The court will now take up the case for a final hearing on October 21.

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