Act has enough safeguards to ensure data protection and will pass any constitutional test, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
said on Wednesday.
His comments come in the backdrop of the Supreme Court
examining legal challenges against making Aadhaar
mandatory for government services and a number of other schemes, and also questions being raised about the Aadhaar
law’s validity as a money Bill.
Speaking at an event on financial inclusion organised by the United Nations, the finance minister said Aadhaar
was only evolving as an idea under the Manmohan Singh government, as it did not have legislative backing. “A legislation was necessary because of the evolving debate, the confidentiality of the data and to build some iron wall around the data itself. The Aadhaar
legislation has been passed and I am sure it will stand the test of constitutionality.”
Earlier last month, a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the apex court had declared right to privacy as a fundamental right, saying it was protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedom guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.
Jaitley said in that judgment, the apex court had talked about reasonable restrictions while upholding the idea of privacy as an important constitutional guarantee. Citing some of the conditions on privacy, he said, “… they have to be by the law, they have to obviously reasonable and some of illustrative restraints not exhaustive are in the larger interest of national
security or for the purposes of detection of crime or for the purpose of dissemination of social benefits. I think the third criteria is very consciously inserted because that is the principle purpose for which this was intended to be used and that is where this interplay of over a billion Aadhaar
numbers, over a billion bank accounts and mobile phones itself has an important role.”
Speaking on financial inclusion, Jaitley said 300 million families have been given access to bank accounts since the launch of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) three years ago. About 42 per cent of households were unbanked before the scheme was launched. Over three years, he said, the number of zero-balance accounts has reduced from 77 per cent to 20 per cent and even these would become operational once the direct benefits transfer scheme is expanded.
PMJDY, launched on August 27, 2014, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was aimed at providing financial services to the poor. These included opening bank accounts for the poor, giving them electronic means of payment (via RuPay cards), and placing them in a position to avail themselves of credit and insurance.
In addition to financial inclusion, Jaitley said the government had taken steps to provide security to the poor via life insurance under the Pradhan Mantra Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and accident insurance under the Pradhan Mantra Suraksha Bima Yojana.